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Ask Windows Central: Will the Surface Neo ever be released?

Surface Neo
Surface Neo (Image credit: Windows Central)

Welcome to the ninth episode of Ask Windows Central, a show where we answer our community's most asked questions around Microsoft, Windows, Surface, Xbox, and the general tech industry. In today's episode, we answer questions about WCOS and Surface Neo, the M1 Pro and Max, and the Insider Beta Channel.

This week's episode features the following questions:

  • Do you think (us) Windows users should have an inferiority complex in the context of M1 Macs?
  • Whatever happened to Windows Core OS? Did the project get cancelled, or was it rolled into Windows 11?
  • Will the Surface Neo ever be released?
  • What is the actual purpose of the Beta Insider ring?

If you have a question you'd like us to answer on the show, be sure to submit them in the comments below, or email daniel@windowscentral.com with "Ask Windows Central" in the subject line! You can also join the Windows Central Discord and ask questions in the dedicated #ask-wc channel.

If you're on Twitter, you can tweet your question with the #AskWindowsCentral tag included, and make sure you tag either @daniel_rubino or @zacbowden so we can see it.

If you have any feedback about the show format, please let us know. We're building this show around you, so if there's something you don't like or think we should change, we're all ears. We hope you enjoy the episode, and look forward to getting back to your questions in the next one.

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

53 Comments
  • Windows Central has reviewed the new 12th gen Intel CPUs and they are beating the M1 line. https://www.windowscentral.com/intel-core-i9-12900k-review
  • Apple M1 Pro and Max devices are the best in the market and you can not find a similar product in Windows ecosystem. It is not just CPU, it is the entire package : GPU, SSD, OS integration. I can not see how Windows OEM can release a competitive product even if based on Adler Lake CPU.
  • Legit question: Why are you here? All you post are pro-Apple comments. Your last 12 out of 15 are all Apple. It's fine if you like Apple and want to use a MBP, gush over the M1, but you are on a Windows site the covers Microsoft and PC, so I'm not sure what value you are getting out of bashing PC here all the time.
  • And another thing, I am a Microsoft 's customer. I was invested in Windows phone, I own SL3, SPX and in the past also a SP3. I am also a MSFT 365 subscriber. I think that I have the right to express my remarks if, in my personal opinion, I see MSFT lagging behind competition and companies should appreciate when their loyal customers express their complaints instead of buying directly their competitors ' products.
  • " I think that I have the right to express my remarks"
    You actually don't have any rights here, but regardless, no one said you can't post making the point moot. It's just any chance you can work Apple into the conversation, that is all you do here, which gives the appearance of trolling e.g. I talk about power consumption in 12th Gen and you bring up Thread Scheduler and Apple, which is weird.
  • I am not trollyng of course, I just reported a point highlighted by a very competent review. I thought it could add something relevant to the topic. But I will follow you advise and I will stop posting. Regards.
  • Have you not noticed that Bleached is a crazed Apple fan here to do nothing but troll on everything Microsoft does? Just get rid of both of them for the sake of peace and professionalism.
  • IDK the commenter here is answering the question asked by the article. In Francesco’s opinion, yes, Windows users should have an inferiority complex against the M1 chipset and OS integration. Regardless of Francesco’s prior opinions he was right to answer the question asked, and was probably right in the answer too I’m not sure I’m as ready to cede that ground yet, but certainly in fan noise, heat and battery life Apple has probably won the next 2 years of mobile laptop/chip design. Devices like the Neo might help accelerate disruption here. But we’ll see
  • I see no reason windows users should have a complex because before anyone chooses a device in sure they do their research and seek advise and make the decision that's best for them or their budget. Both Apple and Windows devices have pros and cons. People shouldn't be pitted against one another based on what device they use, so childish or superiority complex driven which is another form of division like racism, etc... Sad!
  • I agree with your overall point, that insecurities about your personal products is silly. To the point of an "inferiority complex" as a Windows user, I don't see the point. There is something to be said, though, about the ecosystem and wondering what future computing will look like. Microsoft seems to be behind across the board, as they lack an in-house SoC to promote their new platforms (such as W10X). They're pretty reliant on partner products and parts to succeed, and it's left them behind in a few places. The M1 Macbooks are what Microsoft wishes the Surface Pro X could be--a portable, powerful leader in ARM computing. Microsoft needs Qualcomm to deliver on their SQ chips for that to happen. As it stands, M1s mop the floor with the SQ2 and then some, so Microsoft has no way to combat that experience. It's to the detriment of the SPX, and unless Qualcomm catches up in a hurry, Mac OS will continue to lead in ARM computing. It leaves the SPX as something of an afterthought, with the x86 Surface Pro needing to lead the brand while the Windows on ARM solutions continue to be high-dollar offerings for basic computing needs...which isn't a great sales proposition.
  • This is fair. WoA is fant3for basic needs, but would be the OS du jour if other Arm processors competed. The main staying power of a PC, at this point, is enterprise, gaming, and flexibility.
  • What happens as those use cases dry up?
  • It may be relating to some of these points but there's also of course backwards compatibility, the huge double-edged sword of the Windows ecpsystem.
  • Yeah, basically this is form of tribalism, but in consumer tech. It is me vs them mentality. I guess it is a form of self-gratification after we purchase certain product and heavily invested on one specific ecosystem that we chose. Then thinking we are superior than the one who choses differently.
  • Can’t bash a PC even when it deserves it? Microsoft and their partners have been sitting on their hands and now Apple has leap frogged them to the point they won’t be catching up for a long time if ever. If mobility and performance are your requirements from a PC, Apple does it best by far. It sounds like you are insecure, as Microsoft probably should be. Their strong holds won’t hold forever.
  • Eh, mobility is better on my Elite tablet PC than an Apple laptop, and Apple's answer to that, that iPad, can't run any of the software I need. So performance means squat if it can't do what I need it to. Let's be honest though, the vast majority of PC and Mac owners don't actually need half the power their devices have, but they've "got to have the best".
  • Mobility isn’t better. You now have a workstation in a laptop form with the MacBook Pro that will run circles around whatever Microsoft device you are using. The only reason to buy a windows machine now is if you have specific software you need that isn’t available on Mac. That is kinda rare.
  • I was commenting a topic you are going to address. That is all.
  • It is your opinion that the Apple M1 Pro and Max devices are the best in the market. It is my opinion that they are not. For all of their achievements there are very many compromises. For example, do you need a device that has touch screen support and a fully fledged OS? Because, currently the only M1 option is the iPad Pro which doesn't support full versions of Adobe CS among other programs. The GPU is SIGNIFICANTLY lacking as compared with laptops with dedicated GPUs. I regularly perform complex computations which require up to 12GB of VRAM. The M1 MacBooks would take hours longer to complete these computations. What Daniel asked is valid, why are you here? You fail to recognize even the basic fact that there is no one right answer.
  • Dude you can't have a logical, fact-based discussion with an iTroll. If they responded to logic and facts, they would buy one devices (Surface Pro) instead of two (iPad and MB) or two instead of three. They'd also acknowledge all the class action lawsuits filed against MB (e.g., connectivity, keyboards, thermal throttling, green screens, cracked screens). Nor will they ever acknowledge that: 1) iPads markers hare has plummeted from nearly 80% to 34% over the past decade. 2) iPhones market share is noise dived from 40% in 2014 to 15% in 2020. 3) MBs and iMacs each only have 7-8% market share. 4) ChromeOS has a higher market share than MacOS. And 5) Apple's fastest growing source of revenue is services (Apple TV, AppleCare). So to obfuscate Apple rapid decline (and need of US government protectionism against Chinese companies), they have to invade every Windows and Android platform and spread misinformation and blatant falsehoods...
  • Surface Pro doesn't compete with an iPad. It is merely a laptop with a removable keyboard. Windows 11 makes them much better for touch, but the software still isn't there for actual tablet use. You would rarely remove the keyboard and when you do, it gets frustrating really quickly. iPad doesn't have the same issue.
  • Your use case is incredibly bizarre to propose as a counter to "Macs don't reach the mainstream." The number of laptops with 12 GB of VRAM is INSANELY low, if not borderline on nonexistent. Most RTX 3080 laptops (where you occasionally will get that much VRAM) are primarily limited to 8 GB of VRAM. If we're arguing Apple is niche because it doesn't hit the mainstream's needs enough (and at a reasonable price point), then there's no point in bringing the most niche of hardware needs in as a true point of argument. Yeah, there are some people who need that stuff, such as yourself, but what you need on the most extreme ends of hardware isn't what the overwhelming majority of users willgbe considering when they shop for devices.
  • Why would you “need” a touchscreen on a laptop? They are nice and convenient occasionally, but I can’t think of a reason you really need one, especially in a production machine.
  • That's got to be the dumbest question I've seen you ask. Point of sale software.
    Interface simulation (i.e. simulating a physical device on a computer screen).
    Convenience (it's often much more convenient to just tap the screen to select options than using a mouse).
    Avoids the need for secondary drawing devices for professions that require it.
  • I have never seen a laptop being used as a point of sale device. Usually it is iPads or Android devices. Professions don’t use touchscreen laptops. They have dedicated hardware for that.
  • Well my company I used to work for have Dell Latitude laptops that are touchscreen, though not having 360 hinge (only some have one for executives and some departments needing it), since you can open flat the display, the touchscreen is actually useful for some interactions as you hold the laptop with screen fully open, like a tablet of some sort but with physical keyboard. It is big, but it was never meant to use for too long anyways. It is an added flexibility that sometimes you don't need to find a desk to sit down just to interact to something.
  • I wish Microsoft had better vision and planning with their products. They produced this interesting product, the Neo, then seemed a mix of confused how to use it and incapable of producing the software to support it. Positioning it around Intel, a company that was clinging to its legacy arch at the time, didn't make the most sense. Qualcomm, at the heart of the Pro X and the Surface Duo, made much more sense for the Neo, especially if it was meant to be a hyper-productive, hyper-mobile device. Justifying the Neo at a higher price is easier if they aren't leaning on Intel's legacy hardware to power things. They get away with the high prices of the Duo because it's a unique package. Having an SQ2 in the Neo takes away some of the comparison concerns to Intel-based stuff as an alternative. It adds to the value of W10A production. It feeds data to Microsoft for developing a Neo around Windows in the future. ARM in Neo, to me, made a LOT more sense than relying on Intel because "they made reference design suggestions."
  • Microsoft doesn’t get away with the pricing of the Duo. It doesn’t sell well, partly because it isn’t unique. The dual screen form factor has been done before, but you guys ignored them because they didn’t say “Microsoft” on them.
  • Yeah, I believe that using ARM for Surface Neo makes more sense, especially for small highly portable and thin devices like that. It is essentially a tablet with 2 displays, and keyboard isn't even 100% full size. It seems like power efficiency with right performance that ARM provides are far more suited. With 2 x 10-inch display, running full Win32 apps would already feel cramped on it, and it is too portable for heavy lifting applications that full x86-64 architecture. Running Win32 on emulation is I think a good compromise for such a form factor. Not to mention, the Intel Lakefield that was supposed to ship with doesn't even have that impressive power efficiency to performance as reviewed with Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold. IMO it is better served by Snapdragon 8cx instead. Maybe the new Intel architecture is now can, but so far we didn't hear yet any dual-screen tablets that ship with it. We'll see over CES.
  • The neo won't be released until the market is ready for it is the short answer. Does anyone remember the Lenovo device that's a laptop with two digital screens when opened the tactile keyboard is where the traditional keyboard would be and the other is the display? Outside of cell phones, I don't think the world's is ready for laptops with digital keyboards.
  • I initially thought that the Neo would be able to find a market more easily than the Duo. But when they announced the Duo price... I pretty much lost all hope for Neo. The markets are never going to be "ready" for foldables at those prices.
  • Yet Samsung is managing to find meaningful success with their $1,000 Z Flip and $1,900 Z Fold.
  • Yea however the neo would toch 3,5k easily.
  • Samsung Folds are innovative, with ground breaking technology. Duo/Neo certainly are not and cannot command the same price. They are the budget design for a foldable.
  • There is nothing innovative about the Samsung Fold, they just did what Apple does and improved on technology that already existed, but Samsung wasn't first.
  • Apple has a folding screen? Where can I buy this?!
  • You're a Troll.. Everyone here knows that even if Duo had a folding screen (and I'm glad it doesn't) you'd still troll on it,, because you're a troll and that's what pathetic trolls do. 🤦🏿‍♂️
  • Remember the Surface Touch Cover? No one liked it as a laptop keyboard. If people didn't like that, where there were at least physical keys to help you with the non-tactile typing experience, who is taking a laptop that devolves that laptop typing experience even further by having just a screen? I remember trying the Type Cover and being immediately turned off, and as someone who generally isn't a fan of typing on a touchscreen (primarily because I'm not that good at it), there's NO WAY I want my laptop to have a digital deck. That said, Microsoft DID offer a solution to that. They were bringing some degree of a physical keyboard accessory. How good was it? We don't know, but the attempt to provide a solution existed. It actually made me think that the old folding keyboard Microsoft made would have been an interesting addition to the Surface Duo. If there were a W11 Duo with that folding keyboard, I'd be pretty intrigued.
  • I understand that for many people the main way to interact with a portable PC is a keyboard and overall I agree; said that I see Neo, and eventual other similar devices, as part of a peculiar segment where the main way of interaction is a pen and not a keyboard. The real issue is that after a really impressive start with XP Tablet OS, an OS where "Ink anywhere" offered an articulate and comprehensive interaction interaction using the pen still unmatched today, in later OS releases as Vista and 7 such capabilities were reduced and the entire paradigm was left stagnating. While with 8 and 10 OSes things have in some, partial, way improved the necessary focus in not there yet and a perfect example of it is, unfortunately, the Duo itself.
  • Neo only makes sense after Duo has reached a significant market share. Neo will only make sense to a subset of Duo users who want a bigger screen real state and having window and Android apps side by side through e.g. windows 11x in the context of a foldable device.
  • It will take at least 1 to 2 more years before Microsoft establish how best to do interoperability between Android and windows apps. Also the time for more established Android apps ported to Windows apps.
  • Some crossover potential exists too. Neo could have served as a hybridization of the Duo and SPX. Let it be an ARM-based Windows PC with the Duo's form factor. Let it serve as the niche pioneer for Windows on ARM. Ideally, that serves as a targeted niche to grow the app ecosystem, giving the Duo a chance to feel things out on Android and switch when ready. You have to REALLY buy into folding devices to get the Duo AND Neo, so I think it would have made more sense for the Neo to focus on bleeding edge PC users, while the Duo serves that niche on mobile.
  • Yes! I have a SPX.. Mostly for whiteboard brainstirming and is getting to feel heavy after prolong use... Duo is small and Neo will feel just right.. ARM Visual Studio development for SPX is getting more mature.. I would go as far as saying Neo ===> is for people who like the best of Surface Laptop studio, Surface Go, SPX, window phone device in a bigger business pocket/purse, foldable form factor..
  • The game changing Apple M1 pro and max will drive the need for more windows use cases needing VRam beyond 8GB, driving cpu with 12 cores 24 threads price main stream affordable. Most importantly, chip manufacturers, Intel, arm, as well graphic cards, need to figure out how to work as one with OS. This game changing will force these players above to do catch up at least for next few years.. Before they becoming less relevant. Apple have figured out the unmet gaps... that are not easy to address. The gaps that it is extremely difficult for OS and chip manufacturers to work as one. This few year head start Apple has will limit those who could see how disruptive this is to adapt fast before becoming irrelevant.. The truth, Very few will act fast to find synergy and attempting to work alone... This allow Apple to pick them up one by one.. If they are not careful.. As data scientist.. 16GB VRam, 32GB main Ram, as many cpu threads, is the new normal... for a potable thin device... Not desktop.
  • Not without proper arm chip for longer battery life & OS that is optimized specifically for dual screens. Microsoft can continue to work on next gen surface duos & bring all it's improvements to surface neo whenever it's desired OS & suitable hardware is ready.
  • The Neo will never be released. I said so years ago when it was first shown. A dual screen Windows tablet - when Windows on a single screen tablet is already beyond clunky - is a dumb idea.
  • I think this is right. Windows tablets are not good currently. I don't think it makes any sense to take a clunky design and then add a clunkier, more niche design. Microsoft should first be focusing on getting Windows 11 for desktops, laptops and tablets sorted first and then chase something like Neo the fact.
  • Well, while true about Windows 10 (and even Windows 11 a bit), this misses the fact that Neo would have shipped with Windows 10X, which was designed and optimized for this dual-screen touch experience, thereby addressing your concerns.
  • “Windows 10X, which was designed and optimized for this dual-screen touch experience” Well, that was the claim and the goal. But since 10X is dead, I think it is safe to assume that neither the claim nor the goal were met. So the Neo died with 10X. Besides, 10X was running on Intel and - even worse - it was also going to run Win32 software. Which means it was never going to be “designed and optimized for this dual-screen touch experience” if it is running mouse and keyboard apps. But the question was, “Will the Neo ever be released?”. The answer is no. Because Windows. I have said this before, and it is worth repeating: MS desperately needs a new OS that IS designed for touch AND is running on ARM AND does not run Win32 AND is not called Windows. But everyone always whines that every OS from MS must run Win32, else it is DOA. Thus, no progress is ever made.
  • I was originally more excited about the Neo. I felt that the use case & product market fit was a lot more obvious than that of the Duo, where Microsoft's marketing of their pocketable mobile device ("it's not a phone") certainly didn't help matters. At this point, I don't see Neo being released, especially as the Duo continues to struggle in the market. I would love to be wrong though. We'll see...
  • When did Microsoft ever market Duo as not a phone?
  • Yes. Once they (MS) are convinced about a concept they will itterate until the form factor (OS, weight, processor) is right. And then they will release it. There is a market for this product. Go back to original MS Courier YouTube clips and you will understand this concept is lightyears ahead of any other tablet. Why? Because it iterates on proven technology that is part of our human being for thousand + years: the book form factor with a clear distinct border in between the right and left pane. So go away bleached with you fold concept because this a a different league MS is going to play in. A league on their own.
  • The Galaxy Fold isn’t a concept. You can go buy one right now.