Microsoft brings Android OS development for Surface Duo in-house by hiring Movial employees

Surface Duo unfolded on display
Surface Duo unfolded on display (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft was working closely with Movial on Android for Surface Duo.
  • Microsoft is now bringing many Movial employees in-house.
  • This team will handle post-launch OS and app updates.

Microsoft is forming a team internally under the Microsoft Devices division that will handle the development of the Android OS for Surface Duo going forward. According to my sources, up until now, Microsoft had contracted the OS work out to third-party vendors such as Movial, who had the expertise required to bring Android to life on Surface Duo.

Movial is a software, services, and design engineering company that was working closely with Microsoft on Surface Duo during its prototype and development stages. Microsoft has now acquired the local operations of Movial in Romania, Taiwan, and the USA, and is bringing on-board all the Movial employees that were working on the Surface Duo as full-time employees at Microsoft.

Microsoft is not acquiring Movial as a whole. Movial will continue to operate as a standalone company, with employees at its headquarters in Finland remaining at Movial. SeeNews reports that Movial's Iasi office will become Microsoft Romania's fourth research and development center, as it on-boards 60 employees from Movial in that location.

A Movial spokespersion said the following:

This transaction involves people in Movial operations in Romania, Taiwan and the United States. Movial will continue operating as an independent company going forward, continuing to provide software engineering and design services. The transaction enables Movial to focus efforts on some key competency areas, such as cyber security. In the short term majority of our remaining staff will be located in Helsinki, Finland but we are also hiring in other locations.

A Microsoft spokesperson also said:

Microsoft recently completed an agreement with Movial to hire employees across several offices as part of the company's efforts to boost Windows and Android development efforts.

Microsoft bringing the OS development for Surface Duo in-house is a big sign that the company is taking its renewed mobile phone efforts seriously. I'm told that with the OS team in-house, Microsoft itself will handle post-launch software updates for Surface Duo that will add new features and experiences over time.

This same team will also handle Android OS work for Surface Duo V2, which I'm told is now in early development. Microsoft is currently advertising job positions (opens in new tab) looking for Android engineers to work on Surface Duo. Microsoft is gearing up to release Surface Duo later this summer, and plans to provide a steady stream of OS and app updates post-launch.

Microsoft's own Android apps, including Microsoft Launcher and SwiftKey, are already all developed in-house. It was just the Android OS specific work for Surface Duo that was outsourced externally.

See more

Surface Duo is expected to launch with a Snapdragon 855, 6GB RAM, 64/128/256GB storage, and an 11MP camera with two 5.6-inch AMOLED displays. We also understand that Surface Duo does not have 5G support, wireless charging, or NFC capabilities. Pricing for the product is still unknown, but we're expecting it to be somewhere in "premium smartphone" territory.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

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.

87 Comments
  • Not sure if i can put my wallet on gen 1, but i'll be cheering you on and ready to purchase gen 2, Microsoft.
  • Yeah, I'm not touching this first gen even if they gave it to me, Still mending my scortch wounds from Win Mobile. Less learned - loud and clear.
  • So wasn't this supposed to be released relatively these days? Where is it?
  • Because of two displays it will come under premium territory?
  • Ok so the strategy is clear now. Microsoft will use Android as it's mobile platform but customise it heavily with things like Microsoft launcher, Your Phone connectivity etc. This gives the best of both worlds on mobile...a full compliment of apps available via Android but a Microsoft flavoured OS that integrates fully with Office etc. It's taken a while and been a bit of a mess in the meantime but with the Movial team being absorbed it's becoming clear and this looks like a good approach to me
  • Agreed. What you have essentially described is pretty much every flagship Samsung since the S10 (or even sooner).
  • "Integrates with Office*, what does that mean and how will it be different than any other Android phone?
  • "Microsoft flavoured OS" - aside from EU it isn't technically possible and even there it is unlikely that Microsoft will license Android in EU and pay Google for every phone sold as I am not aware that anyone does that though it is technically possible now. Google licensing terms of the free version (and that is the only version in most of the world) mean that it will be ALWAYS 'Google flavored OS'. You may add some secondary flavors but they won't be primary ever.
  • No NFC is a hard pass, albeit I would never moved on a G1 device anyway.
  • For some this is a real issue, while for others this is a non-issue. For me personally I could not care less.
  • Waiting for gen2 like everybody else. I won't be an early adopter this time.
  • but it won't have gen 2
  • Hahaha.... I promise I was not laughing because it is not funny
  • I just hope microsoft don't create an Android fork like Amazon did on their fire tablets. one thing though, no wireless charging, no nfc, no deal.
  • "I just hope microsoft don't create an Android fork like Amazon did on their fire tablets"
    I hope they do, and have been wondering why that was not explored.
    That way, developers just compile their apps.
    MSFT can control the store, and changes that suites MSFT best
  • Good luck bringing developers to the new store.
  • I hope so too but it is not so easy because of Google Play Services, a lot of apps depend on it.
  • They didn't. They said in the announcement it would have Google Play.
  • Okay, now Windows 10X can run x86 emulated and even ARM64 emulated according to latest reports if I'm not mistaken. It is also capable to run with a high compatibility ratio Linux apps. Say what you want, I am expecting them to announce when Windows 10X is released that "oh, btw this also runs Android apps emulated".
  • Developing for Windows then becomes totally pointless. That would certainly be the end.
  • Not at the begining. But with consumers onboard, the story could become a little different.
  • Huh? If they support Android apps, then developers don't need to create apps for Windows. They can just target Android and ignore Windows. That strategy has never worked for anyone. They need to make 10X amazing to use and then price it properly. Attract developers by giving them access to an engaged user base. That is the only way to get dedicated developers. Build it, make it great, and they will come. Supporting Android apps is conceding the market from the start.
  • I understand the hesitance and reservations that everyone is exerting when it comes to first generation products, but when was the last time the Surface team produced a First Gen that didn't deliver? Surface Book (gen 1) good product. Surface Laptop (gen 1) good product. Surface Headphones (gen 1) good product. I think the days of premature launching of devices are over especially when it comes to the "Surface" brand. I'll be in line to get a gen 1 and I'll let you know what you're missing ;).
  • The first-gen Surface Book had a lot of problems with driver issues and battery drain. We had one at my work, and it had an issue where it just wouldn't connect to WiFi until a later update fixed it (though it was used by a remote employee who didn't report this issue for a long while, so I was unable to test other solutions). The Surface Headphones were overpriced and failed to meet the standards of the competition, in terms of audio quality and ANC quality, while costing the same or more. None of those examples are of products that have really taken off and been successful in their markets. They're all either super-niche or also-ran products sold at a price premium. I wouldn't look at them as signs MS will do it right the first time and warrant the high price tag. They're playing is insanely safe with the hardware and taking forever to put it out, but I suspect the software will still be riddled with bugs and the "playing it safe" route with the hardware is taking away a lot of convenience features like Qi and NFC, so it's a tough sell to the majority of potential customers.
  • I think you took my comment a little out of context. I was simply stating that the "Surface" brand has lately provided good products. By definition I'm implying that they satisfied what they advertised they'd do. All products have flaws, but there wasn't any glaring flaws. The pricing of a product has nothing to do with the mechanisms of the product, but marketing. You can throw the Surface earbuds into that catergory. I have them and though they are overpriced, they are a great product.
  • used the Surface headphones for the first time yesterday. Good sound quality and like how I can turn sound down with the headphone dial instead of pulling out my phone/computer.
  • This device has been in development for years, too, so the hardware should be pretty mature for a gen1 product. And the OS should be mature, since it's Android 10.
  • I think the issue is the office apps and how they work on the Duo. To what extent Android had to be changed for dual screens is also a concern. Gen 1 will be an "old" phone. Using last years technology. But a phone should last 3 years plus. So you are really buying a 1 year old model. I would want the early adopters to run the OS and apps through their paces before I buy one. I think I will buy the Surface 7 (i5/128) bundle (key pad and pen) at Costco for $799. my Surface Pro 5 is a little long in the tooth.
  • As a day one owner of the sp7 I'd advise against it. I've owned an sp 2,4,6, and 7. Performance is not markedly better than the 6 and battery life is terrible. It's not that it's just bad, it's terrible. There are many many forums and complaints about 3 to 5 hour battery. Mine has been averaging 3 hours for weeks. Microsoft says it's something I'm doing, but it'll happen right after a complete system reset. I'm not alone either, and as mentioned there are a great many users with issues. They also overheat. If I plug mine in when the battery is below 20% and use it while charging it'll overheat and shutdown. Again, I'm not alone in that, and many, many people have issues with heat.
    I'd like to blame Intel for its ice lake implementation, but much of this is Microsoft fault. The sp7 is not a device worth the price, and I'd sell mine in a heartbeat if I could get my money back on it.
  • For me, it's less about concern of it being a gen 1 and more that THIS gen 1 lacks some relatively important features like NFC and wireless charging.
  • But that really differs per person whether that is important or not. Its not like a bad screen on a flagship that e.g. would impact every potential user for the device. Still agree with you in the regard that the price should be severely lower than a samsung fold device.
  • Yeah but swap Book with Go and you make a better argument I think. Book 1 was cool but did have problems, but also not surprising because of its uniqueness and complexity (especially laptop cpu in thin screen/tablet). I think the Duo while still complex is a less radical product innovation (/360 degree hinges has been successfully used for years now, even on e.g. chinese 7 inch Windows devices).
  • I feel bad for them. Start updating those resumes and prepare for Microsoft to give up less than 2 year in.
  • OMG you're the new bleached! A void in my life has been filled.
  • I try to stick around, but it is getting hard. Microsoft news isn't interesting anymore.
  • You jynxed it, he's back now
  • Bleach has lots of goons here on WC. ^.^
  • @Kadcidxa, I'm with Andrew G1. With the exception of the original Surface RT (which also predates the current leadership team), I believe all other Surface products have survived and grown over time. Notice, for example, that the Band, which was originally expected to be the Surface Band, did not bear that branding. So while I agree with you about MS as a whole having the tenacity of a puppy in the post-Bill Gates days, the Surface team has persevered to success on every line it launched and branded. I understand the G1 concerns from others, not so much because it's the first attempt, but because we know what's missing from the spec sheet: NFC, wireless charging, only an 11MP camera. But to suggest that this is a dead-end at this stage and that those new Android developer jobs won't last shows a lack of understanding of how Microsoft handles its branding, products, and software development.
  • It's not that it's falling short on specs, it's that it's going to fall short on specs and be one of the most expensive products on the market. No NFC, no Qi, no headphone jack, 11 MP camera (and MS isn't known for doing good camera software), super-high price, year-old internals, no 5G for long-term viability on the four-figure device. Really, the problem is that this thing's specs read like a mix between mid-range and low-end hardware, but it's going to cost as much as a Galaxy S20 5G. You're going to be a paid beta tester missing a bunch of features. Then, they'll expect you to pay $1,500 again in 12-18 months for the iteration that actually has the features a premium phone typically provides.
  • I bet it is $699 or $799 starting. They won't go much higher with the current specs and bezels.
  • How do you know the pricing already?
  • Really difficult to say now what the pricing will be. I think if it will be similar to for example a galaxy s or note it might be an interesting buy. Yes the specs (except for screen) will be worse but probably good enough and you would effectively get a galaxy fold for less money. (of course there is that lg fold phone but it does not support a pen, is not cheap too and has somewhat weak support for multi screen usage).
  • I think the OnePlus approach is similar to the Duo. $800 give or take. I think MSFT just wants to get this phone out in the wild. However, If you sell Gen 1 for $800, can you price Gen 2 for $1000? I new iPhone 11 with 128 GB is $750. I new oneplus is about $800. The top end Samsung is $1500. Can MSFT hold the price at $800 through Gen 3? new cameras, new processors, new screens etc.?
  • Wow, you so optimistic.
    I guess less than a year, they will kill every Duo project. After its failure of course.
  • Sorry but it has to have NFC and wireless charging. No deal otherwise for me.
  • Yeah ... I need wireless charging. And a better-than-decent camera. But the idea of a foldable phone with pen support is very intriguing to me.
  • "premium smartphone" territory?, how ? with the specifications missing from this device, I would think Microsoft couldn't possibly price it anywhere near that, yes it's a newish form factor, and new ways of usage, other than that not much, some of the decisions Microsoft have made I can understand, especially for a first generation device, the SoC, the ram, even the limited possible storage of 64 gigabyte, but the lack of NFC is just plain stupid, I know a lot of people, me being one, use this one feature of their device, I use it almost daily, payments varia my smartphones have become the norm, even before the Pandemic, I feel that the Duo must be a US only device, I hope Microsoft fix this oversight for version 2.
  • Even the firm factor isn't new. ZTE made it 3 years ago. LG from 2 years ago. Sony from 10 years.
  • But all of them lacked support & ecosystem for multi-screen usage. At least MS build an Android skin with special features for multi tasking (see the videos of WC about it). Specs are nice and all but its the user experience that matters in the end. Its to soon to tell now.
  • It's not just a "newish form factor." It's legitimately new hardware. The second screen isn't cheap to add on, plus the hinge tech (look at the folding reliability on the first-gen Galaxy Fold). Look at how the use of a unique hinge design blasts the Surface Book into the stratosphere of the laptop market pricing. Screens are some of the most expensive parts to replace, if a smartphone fails. Plus, it's using something that supports a digital pen, like the Galaxy Note 10 that launched at $950 with ONE screen. I would like those additional wireless features as well, but their removal also isn't involving really expensive parts (you can buy NFC tags for a few bucks and Qi pads are cheap as well), so taking them out isn't going to move the needle much on product cost. I actually am OK with it costing a premium, but I also get that it's a real letdown to have some ubiquitous comfort features disappear on a premium device. It sucks and doesn't make a lot of sense, unless the chassis material is incompatible with the Qi and NFC options right now, but it seems like that's been solved by a lot of smartphone OEMs using metal chassis.
  • It won't cost a premium. It will be well under $1,000 and I would bet it is closer to $699 starting.
  • Bleached, the only problem with your $699 price is future expectations. If Gen 1 is $699, will buyers be willing to pay $899 for Gen 2? iPhone prices don't seem to have risen much in the last several years.
  • Next up, a Microsoft ChromeBook. Can MS Linux be very far behind?
  • Maybe not! And I say why? It may well make business sense for them.
  • *And I say why not?
  • You mean every Windows 10 S device?
  • What Windows 10 S devices? The 27 that are still in S mode?
  • The immediate aftermath of the Windows phone debacle left me wondering how, not if, Microsoft would get back to having a mobile computing story. Adopting Andorid, in hindsight, was inevitable though I must admit their approach of effectively doing that via a hostile takeover through applications and the launcher was a surprise. All of these initial moves have allowed me to disable or dump a significant number of Google applications on my Pixel phone with the Google Playstore and Maps the main exceptions. It isn't a pure Windows solution, but it is close enough for the foreseeable future. Now with the Surface Duo's release eminent and an apparent doubling down on their commitment to Android as their mobile platform leaves me intrigued by what comes next. Is the parasite about ready to explode out of the chest and run amok? My sense is this gambit is of strategic importance to Microsoft and not one they will abandon unless it becomes debacle 2.0, an outcome that is possible. Still, Microsoft being sidelined from one of the most significant computing events in the last 20 years, I am quite sure, is a problem that has consumed lots of time in their executive suites. Microsoft, at long last, seems to have a strategy and the tactical tools to make a return to the mobile computing universe viable. The timing of these current moves, when considered with the 5G rollout over the next five to ten years, looks willfully prescient. This is really fantastic news.
  • Beautifully said, Big Endian. 100% agree.
  • Very well put. The Duo could be an important part of what has been a winning strategy for Microsoft to put its software where its customers are, whether that is Windows or something else. This strategy has resulted in new financial heights and Windows 10 still hitting it goal of 1 billion users, just somewhat slower than had there still been a mobile version of the OS. The Duo will still need execution like the rest of the Surface products and I expect that V2 will be closer to the ideal than V1, but I will still purchase V1 because I like the concept of the dual screens in a pocketable device.
  • Microsoft using Android doesn't count as a return to the mobile universe. They will merely just be another OEM, no different than an LG or Samsung.
  • Why does it not count? All you have to do to be in the mobile space is release a phone, which the article claims they are about to do.
  • Well said, it will be interesting to see what will happen either way. For me ntrig support alone makes it worth it to keep an eye on.
  • Interesting reading about the nitty gritty business decisions like this. Of course they may tell us something about Duo, but they're also interesting in and of themselves. Or maybe I need a new hobby.
  • Yeah, I like that stuff too. Always interesting to hear.
  • This adds a little confidence that this isn't just an experiment by Microsoft. Hopefully, they'll be able to keep plugging away at this and build something unique.
  • They spent over $7 billion on Nokia. They didn't do jack to invest meaningfully into making their mobile platform work from there.