Microsoft VP teases “new form factors” for Surface lineup, but not a phone

Microsoft’s corporate vice president of its devices group, Panos Panay, has suggested that we might see “new form factors” within the lineup of Surface devices, although confirmed that there are no immediate plans to release a heavily-rumoured Surface phone. 

Currently, Microsoft’s Surface lineup consists of devices ranging from the 10-inch Surface Go tablet through to the Surface Laptop, and finally the all-in-one PC Surface Studio.

But with the recent revelations that Microsoft has a “pocketable” Surface device planned, rumours are once again circling that the company is planning to launch a phone into the segment.

Wired put these questions to Panay directly in a recent interview. His response: “I would not say that [our current plan] includes a Surface Phone.”

However, what he said next was especially interesting. “The way to think about what is it that people want to accomplish and how will they accomplish it and what are those form factors. So I will say there will be new form factors and there will be new change in the market.”

What even is a phone in 2018?

The whole discussion has gotten us thinking what exactly constitutes a phone in 2018.

It used to be the case that phones are the things that can send text messages and make phone calls over traditional phone networks, but with tablets and even laptops now offering LTE connectivity, and with phone calls and messaging happening over data, there’s little to separate a laptop from a phone barring size and a traditional keyboard (excluding of course the recently released BlackBerry Key2).

Add to that the fact that you can increasingly use smartphones and tablets to complete many day-to-day computing tasks and it starts to feel like everything is really converging.

So when Panay talks about changing form-factors and the new ways people are using their devices, it feels like he’s talking about the idea of a ‘phone’ disappearing into a new universal device form-factor.

Sure, it’ll be able to fit in your pocket just like a phone can, but it might end up being closer to a tablet in functionality, even if apps like Skype will theoretically allow you to make traditional phone calls.

These days Microsoft is a difficult company to predict, but either way it sounds like it has big plans for the Surface lineup.

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