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Windows Phone 'phablet' update opens door to tablets

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 16, 2013
Take the next step, analysts urge Microsoft: Put Windows Phone on small tablets

Bajarin's argument was that developers of Windows Phone apps have more experience designing apps with touch targets appropriate for smaller screens than those who create apps for the larger screens used by Windows 8 and its sibling, Windows RT.

That led him to another point: Microsoft has an opportunity to excite Windows Phone app developers by pushing the OS onto smaller-sized tablets.

"Microsoft needs a [range] of very specific devices that lets [Windows Phone] app developers take advantage of something more than a small screen," said Bajarin, applauding the move by Update 3 onto larger displays.

Microsoft regularly gets dinged for the small size of its app ecosystem on Windows Phone and Windows 8 when compared to the much larger inventories on Android and iOS. "It's not necessary that [Microsoft] have all the same apps, but what is is that developers take advantage of their platform in unique ways. If developers can do that, it offsets the negative," Bajarin added.

Engaging the developer base to make new apps, ones unique to Windows Phone, is one of Microsoft's challenges, Bajarin acknowledged. But he gave the company a better chance if it offered Windows Phone developers something to do besides create for screens 6-in. and smaller.

Not everyone thought like Gold and Bajarin.

"This will open the door for phablets and you can expect to see some announced very soon," said Ryan Reith of IDC in an email interview Monday. "Nokia is the obvious choice here as they are clearly the front runner pushing Windows Phone 8 forward. Technically, it could also now support 7-in. or greater but that isn't the strategy here."

Instead, said Reith, Microsoft will stick with its current — and long-expressed — strategy of dedicating Windows 8 and Windows RT, and their 8.1 successors, as the operating systems for tablets.

"We expect this to remain as is," said Reith. "Windows Phone and Windows will have to continue to show increased synergy in 2014 if they truly want to compete across all computing mediums."

So far, Microsoft has followed that strategy: It hasn't announced a smaller Surface tablet of its own — although rumors that it will next year continue to accumulate — and the few tablets of that size released by OEMs have been built around Windows 8, not Windows RT, as some had once expected. At the moment, in fact, Microsoft is the sole OEM using Windows RT. Dell, the last partner with a Windows RT tablet in its portfolio, said two weeks ago that it had no plan to refresh that line.

Reith stuck to his guns even though several long-time Windows watchers, including blogger Paul Thurrott, citing anonymous sources, have claimed that the next iteration of Windows Phone, code-named "Blue," likely officially dubbed Windows 8.1, and due out next year, will support screens up to 10-in.


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