iPhone 5 to be Dethroned by Microsoft's Superphone?
Media headlines suggest that Microsoft is working on a revolutionary new product that will change the world, defeat Apple, and bake fresh bread.
Next fall, long after Batman and The Avengers have hit the big screen, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) will release what is currently known as a “superphone.”
The news of this still-unconfirmed iPhone 5 competitor first hit the Web when WMPoweruser, a Windows Phone tech site, uncovered a “leaked Windows Phone roadmap” that “gives us a peek into the future.”
The Telegraph is one of many sites that has picked up on the story, blown it out of proportion, and acted as though Microsoft is working on a platform that could go head-to-head with the iPhone 5.
It's a nice theory, and if the Windows maker works really hard, it might be able to accomplish many great things. But let's take a moment to dissect exactly what appears in the “leaked roadmap,” which may or may not be real:
During the spring (Q2 2012), the roadmap claims that Microsoft will release Tango, the next evolution in the Windows Phone platform. Tango will apparently enable low-end handsets to use the mobile OS. Under the single bullet point for this area on the roadmap, Microsoft will offer “products with the best prices.”
Then we come to the fourth quarter, at which time Microsoft will apparently release Apollo, a more significant upgrade. Some speculate that this may actually be Windows Phone 8. Whatever the case, Apollo has three bullet points claiming that Microsoft aims to “increase overall volume,” remain “competitive,” and launch an unspecified number of “superphones.” The third bullet point is actually assigned to the word “business,” but without any further details I suspect that Microsoft made a mistake and meant to assign the bullet to the word “competitive” (which is capitalized and stands alone as one individual item on the list). It is also possible that Microsoft meant to include a fourth bullet.
In the end, however, none of this matters. Microsoft's “peek into the future” is barely a glimpse into what the company may or may not have planned for 2012. While the “superphone” bullet is worth noting, it is not the confirmation of a revolutionary new product. At best, it indicates that Microsoft wishes to compete with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) by offering a product that is, well, super.
Unlike superheroes, which tend to wear capes and form-fitting attire, Microsoft's superphone(s) are likely to be sleek and shiny devices that are hyped with an endless stream of silly commercials. But to be perfectly honest, I'd rather hang with Gambit and Wolverine than use another Microsoft product (Xbox 360 and Windows 8 excluded).
Now let's suppose for a moment that Microsoft has a better plan this time around. And a better marketing campaign. And a better selection of handsets ready for a 2012 release. And an app store people will actually care about. And a million other things that will make consumers leave their Apple and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) smartphones behind in favor of a superphone. And…
In re-reading the paragraph above, I realize that this is an impossible scenario. It's not that Microsoft shouldn't try – Android and iOS definitely need some competition. But I cannot imagine a scenario in which Microsoft could actually come out on top in 2012.
Granted, there was a time when the Mac maker faced a similar list of challenges. How do you compete with an operating system that can be found in virtually every computer in the world? To this day, Apple does not have the answer. Windows is still the leader with hundreds of millions of OS licenses worldwide.
Mac OS may never overtake Windows. But if Apple can become the leader in every other respect (computer hardware, tablets, smartphones, etc.), the company isn't likely to care about Windows' computer dominance.
One thing that people often forget is that Apple's mainstream success did not come overnight, and it did not happen because people suddenly fell in love with Mac. But once the iPod arrived, Average Joes and Janes began to take a second, third, and fourth look at Apple products. By the time consumers were done looking, they were the proud owners of several Apple devices.
If Microsoft has any hope of getting back in the game, the company needs to release a gateway device that inspires consumers to care about Windows again. Maybe Windows 8 will be that product. Maybe it will happen with the next Xbox. It is also possible that, just as Apple stunned the world with the iPod, Microsoft will release a new product that no one could have ever anticipated.
But even if that were to occur, there is no chance that Microsoft will release an iPhone 5-killer in 2012.
Microsoft may not be able to compete with the iPhone 5, but it could:
- Prevent Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) from rebounding.
- Limit the potential success of Google's Android tablets.
- Stop other companies from entering the industry. Bye, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ)!
If Microsoft's phone is truly super, it might:
- Pave the way for Nokia (NYSE: NOK) – which would likely be one of the superphone manufacturers – to recover some of the company's massive losses.
- Influence the future of mobile OS development, just as iOS did four years ago.
Follow me @LouisBedigian
(c) 2013 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.