In their recent Surface Event, Microsoft announced the usual expected updates to their Surface Laptops, and 2-in-1’s. But they didn’t stop at that. They surprised everyone with a couple of new devices. They announced new Surface earbuds, an iPad competitor dubbed the Surface Pro X, and a new category of dual screen devices: the Surface NEO, and the Surface DUO.
Microsoft isn’t calling the Surface NEO a laptop. Neither does it want you to call the Surface DUO a phone. The company believes it is introducing completely new line of devices. The models it unveiled are still prototypes. The devices are expected to launch in 2020. So currently there’s no details on pricing.
The Surface NEO looks very futuristic. It is a dual screen device – it really isn’t a laptop – that runs Windows 10X. Windows 10X is Microsoft’s new Operating System targeted at Dual Screen devices. It is clear, by going this hard, the company believes the future is dual screens.
There’s two 9 inch displays that are connected by a 360 degree hinge. Microsoft says this is their thinnest LCD. When open it is only 5.6mm thin! That’s thinner than your iPhone or Android Phone. You can use it in many different ways: as a laptop where you attach a magnetic keyboard to one side, as a book, in tent mode, or closing the hinge and using only one screen etc.
It is powered by Intel processors, it supports Microsoft’s Surface Pen, and if you’re wondering where the touchpad is, just place the magnetic keyboard on either screen and see the magic unfold.
This is a smaller Surface NEO. But instead of running Windows 10X, it runs Android. Yes, Google’s Android. It also has a SIM slot, and can make phone calls. But like Microsoft explained to WIRED, they’re not calling it a phone. However we don’t care. It is a phone if it can make phone calls. It is a phone if it runs Android. It is a phone if I am to use it as a phone.
The DUO has two 5.6 inch displays. They’re also held together by a 360 degree hinge. Apart from that hinge, it doesn’t have bumps. Only the volume and power buttons on one side.
We’ve seen foldable phones from Samsung, and Huawei. We’ve also seen one called the Royale Flexipad. All of them use plastic displays. Because obviously glass cannot bend. Microsoft is using two displays joined by a hinge. As such, both displays are glass, and as durable as the glass on your current phone.
You have to open the Surface DUO to interact with it. But you can also open it up all the way round and interact with only one screen – as a normal phone.
Microsoft has showed a couple of uses one could have with such a device. From better multi-tasking with a single or multiple apps, to reading books. It looks to be a really good device for productivity, entertainment and gaming combined.
But why Android? Why not Windows 10X, or a new version of the now dead Windows Phone OS?
Why an Android Phone?
Android is the most used Mobile Operating System across the world. It is open source, and has a myriad of apps. But the greatest thing it has is developer support. Which means the company wants such dev support for this phone. They cannot build both the device, and come up with dev support overnight for their own dead OS.
You want to buy a device you can use for different things. You don’t want to have only 6 useful cases. You would want apps to run well, to have options and much more. Only Android gives Microsoft that opportunity.
But why is Microsoft back to making phones? Well, they are not calling the Surface DUO a phone. It seems, or so the want us to believe, they’re creating this new lineup of devices the market doesn’t have. Perhaps the company believes the future is made of dual screen pocketable foldables? Or perhaps they just want something that gets people talking about their devices before they unveil more mainstream Android devices?
But maybe Microsoft is looking to a more different future. A future where the Operating System doesn’t matter. In the same WIRED article, Satya Nadella says, “The operating system is no longer the most important layer for us.” Which says a lot about how the company imagines the cloud-powered future.
Personally, I believe the different use cases of foldables, and dual screen pocketables will become more evident as they become more mainstream. I know tech works differently, and one can never really know what the future will look like, but we can make bets.
Companies like Samsung and Huawei have made their bets with the Galaxy FOLD and the MATE X. Microsoft is also making its bet with the Surface DUO.