For the longest time, Microsoft has made it a point to remain incredibly secretive about its latest foray into the mobile industry. While rumors about a mysterious mobile device have been around for a while now, the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant has stubbornly refused to confirm the handset’s existence. That is, of course, until now.
During a recent conversation with users in Zhihu, a Microsoft engineer accidentally mentioned the ever-elusive Surface Phone. The conversation started when users in the Chinese Quora-esque platform asked for an explanation about Cortana’s limited capabilities on Android devices. Responding to the queries, the Microsoft engineer explained that Cortana’s capabilities on Android are indeed limited, thanks to a lack of permissions on the mobile operating system.
As the Microsoft engineer elaborated further, the name of one particular device became very prominent — the Surface Phone. According to the Microsoft employee, Cortana’s full capabilities would be highlighted in devices that are actually manufactured by Microsoft. As smartphone fans from beyond China began to take notice of the statement, the Microsoft engineer from the tech firm’s Asian branch promptly edited the response with a disclaimer. By this time, however, the post has already attracted the attention of the smartphone community.
Here is the full statement of the Microsoft engineer on Zhihu, before the immediate disclaimer was posted.
“First of all, Siri and Bixby, two intelligent assistants installed in the smartphones, and Cortana is a third-party application; permissions support may be embarrassing. Windows Phone users may know that Cortana in Windows Phone was better than the Cortana app, Windows Phone Cortana was a lot easier to use. Microsoft Cortana (Xiao Na) is a cross-platform smart assistant, available across all devices including PCs and smartphone, trying to do more like WeChat Noda.
“For the smart assistant, permissions is a good thing, looking forward to the perfect performance of the Surface Phone. Of course, as a smart assistant, the pace of development is still relatively slow, but Cortana team will be working hard to make the assistant better.”
The specific mention of the Surface Phone is quite significant. The development of the device, after all, has been incredibly secretive, and while patents about a revolutionary folding hybrid are emerging in increasing frequency, Microsoft has never mentioned the rumored name of the handset. Nevertheless, as noted in an MS Power User report, if there is one person who could confirm the existence of the device, it would be someone working for Microsoft — someone like an engineer.
Recent patents point to the Surface Phone being designed with a unique hinge that would enable the smartphone to adopt a variety of forms and functions. Depending on its configuration, the handset could function like a smartphone, tablet, or mini laptop computer with a touchscreen keyboard. The Surface Phone is also rumored to feature a full Windows 10 operating system, setting it apart from the rest of the mobile market. The release date of the Surface Phone remains unknown, though speculations point to the device seeing an unveiling sometime later in 2018.