Microsoft surprised us with the Surface Duo in the week . it’s the much awaited Surface phone that has been rumored year after year and even more surprisingly it’s running Google’s Android OS. The Surface Duo has two 5.6-inch displays that fold over the 8.3-inch overall screen and are only 4.8mm thin.
Remember Windows Phonefrom way back when? Well Microsoft is kindof getting back into making smartphones. This is Surface Duo, and it runs Android.
Not Windows or Windows Phone. That’s right. Microsoft is making aSurface phone with Android. If that sounds surprising, it’s because it really is. But we’ll get back into the Android side in a minute. Duo is part of two new futuristic dual-screen devices thatMicrosoft announced today. And they’re coming in Holiday 2020.
Surface Duo has two 5.6 inch displays that fold out into an8.3 inch device overall. And it’s just 4.8 millimeters thin. It folds like many two-in-one laptops thanks to a 360 degrees hinge. And it’s designed toget more done on the go. It looks tiny for this type of device, and it felt kind of like a Galaxy Note in my pocket.
Now, I wasn’t allowed to play around with the software on this device, but it looks and feelslike a tiny pocket tablet that’s also a phone. The difference between this and any other Android phone, except maybe the Galaxy Fold, is visually obvious. But Microsoft thinks this is part of a new category of devices that allow people to do a lot more with tablets and phonesthan they do today.
As part of this idea, Microsoft also announced aSurface Neo device today. Which has two larger 9 inch displays. The Duo and the Neo share a very similar design, but they don’t share acommon operating system. Neo, the larger dual-screen device, runs Windows 10 X, and has all your familiardesktop and tablet apps.
The reason this isn’trunning Windows Phone is because Microsoft gave up on that operating system years ago, when it couldn’t convince developers to create apps for it’s devices. Now we sat down with Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer, Panos Panay, on the Vergecast this week, to talk about why Microsoftchose Android this time for the Surface Duo. – [Panay] Well because, those are the apps you want.
I don’t know how to answer it differently for you. Because there’s hundredsof thousands of apps and you want them. Asati and I talked about it, it’s about meeting ourcustomers where they are. And I don’t think the, you know, the mobile application platform’s going anywhere any time soon, you need the apps. – So you’ll get the apps you’d expect from a phone insidethe dual-screen device, but how is this different from any other smartphone? I mean it obviously looks different.
And the main idea is making use of these two displays in ways we’re only starting to see other Android phone makers explore. You could run a game on one side, and a game pad on the other, or multi-task by draggingand dropping content between apps. Microsoft hasn’t thoughtof everything you’d do with the Surface Duo just yet, but that’s why it’s announcing it now so developers can fill in the gaps.
They’re really aiming to introduce a new form factor here, and a way for a device toadjust itself on the go, no matter the task. We’ve seen foldable devices from Huawei and Samsung, but the Duo has two separate displays that are made of glass, rather than foldable plastic. Which given the issueswith Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, that might be a good choice right now.
Microsoft has beenworking on this hardware for three years, and Panos Panay tells us that this device won’t change much by the time it debuts late next year. The real key question will be whether Android app developers create the apps andexperiences that really take advantage of this dual-screen device. And whether consumerswant this type of hardware in a phone form factor in the first place.
That’s why Microsoft also has its largest Surface Neo device running Windows. And it really feels like the company wants to offer a Surface at every shape and size. Microsoft also seems to be implying that the operating system really doesn’t matter forSurface devices anymore.
And it’s willing to partnerwith Google and others to offer what makes sense. So does that means thatAndroid is the future for Microsoft? – [Panay] (clears throat)No no no no no no. You want to offer customers what they need within the form factor that they are using. We’ve learned this, you know, the right operating systemon the wrong product or the other way around, pick your words, but what’s the right operating system for the form factor? And in this case, in mobile devices, Android’sthe obvious choice. But anything above that, Windows is everything.
Superior for me. – So, will the SurfaceDuo and the Surface Neo combine in the future? Will there be a smartphonethat turns into a tablet, that then turns into a laptop, then you dock and turns into a real PC? We’re years away from anything even getting close to that. But it opens up the questions about where this dual-screen and foldable hardware is going exactly.
And they’re really hardquestions to answer right now. Microsoft will now need to convince app developers and consumers that these dual-screen devices are truly the new device category that we’veall been waiting for. Wherever things end up, it looks like Microsoft want to be ready at every point with Surface.
You want a phone that’s a little bit more than a phone thathas an extra display? Surface Duo. You want a tablet thattransforms into a laptop? Surface Neo or Surface Pro. Microsoft is coveringevery hardware base here, and it’s leaving it up to you to decide what device you actually need. – [Panay] You know, I think like anything, look at the product you think is most interesting to you and where you think you can be more creative, that’s what I would push. And I think this products gonna be there next year. Not in a hurry, you know, hang out.
Take photos or do whatever it is you do on your phone today for a little bit longer and then, see if we can convince you that you can be morecreative on this product. – It’s been a crazy day of Surface devices and there’s a bunch of hands-on videos you should check outon our YouTube channel. Be sure to also definitelycheck out the Vergecast, ’cause it has the fullinterview with Panos Panay, and you don’t wanna miss it.