Microsoft doesn't need to give Android fans good reasons for the Surface Duo's existence

Surface Duo
Surface Duo (Image credit: Microsoft)

Surface Duo

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

This is a guest post by Juan Carlos Bagnell of SomeGadgetGuy. It is also cross-posted on his website,

I'm sure tech fans are well familiar with the happenings at Microsoft. Android enthusiasts are craving new form factors and new features. I still chat on the regular with former Window Phone fans still hurting from that canceled experiment. There's a clear interest floating through various gadget communities, even without Microsoft "leaking" or posturing around the web. Maybe we can chalk part of the silence up to a global pandemic?

The concern for this silence, a product like the Surface Duo needs to be visible. A bold experiment delivered in obscurity is a tragic mistake. If consumers don't understand who this device is made for, then it will likely fall into the hands of a select few (with the money to test drive it), who will likely pan it for being unfamiliar. The Surface Duo looks to be a specific solution, for a specific consumer, and follows in the footsteps of Surface tablets and laptops.

The success or failure of the Surface line will be dictated by people who own Surfaces.

Microsoft has grown up as a software company. Satya Nadella made big promises on the future of Microsoft, focusing on services and the cloud. It was a risky change, but one showing clear advantages today. Any computer can be a platform for Microsoft services. If Windows 10 isn't ready to be used in a smaller form factor, then Android is an easy substitute. Axing the Windows Phone team years ago meant a ton of developer talent was pointed directly at iOS and Android.

The success or failure of the Surface line will be dictated by people who own Surfaces.

How better to improve Microsoft services on Android than to build a bleeding-edge Android-powered device?

We should be a little concerned about some of the internal team arrangements, how the Movial transition likely slowed some of the development, but concerns are currently speculation. The recent move bringing that team under closer collaboration, and to loosely discuss development on Surface Duo 2, were the right moves to make. Timing is difficult. Absorbing outside developers is difficult. None of this is easy. It's less a worrying sign WHEN they make a transition like this, and more an encouraging sign to see a company adapt to issues in their product development chain.

Surface Duo

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

We're going to see a number of armchair quarterbacks loudly chatting up what Microsoft should've done to be successful. In fact, I'm writing this in response to Andrew Martonik's assertion that Microsoft shouldn't be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making an ambitious Android phone. It's a common refrain — Microsoft should've made a "normal" phone first before the grand Surface Duo experiment. How can Microsoft figure out all the little quirks of Android unless they make a "regular" phone first?

It's my hypothesis that Microsoft isn't interested in making an Android phone. Microsoft wants to make a smaller Surface.

There are no "basics" to figure out. There is no agreed-upon aesthetic for a dual-screen or foldable phone. We are in uncharted territory. Now is the perfect time for Microsoft to step back into the mobile hardware landscape.

Microsoft isn't interested in making an Android phone. It wants to make a smaller Surface.

Had Microsoft opted for a normal phone, we know how it would have been received. They would have accrued some praise for a couple of features. They've earned some skepticism for how they handled Windows Phone and Nokia, so numerous editorials would hinge on the emotional baggage associated with the Ballmer era.

The "normal" phone would have been picked apart. If it had too many unfamiliar features, those features would have been called gimmicks. If it didn't have enough "new" built-in, the phone would have been panned for not being original enough. Tech reviewers at the end of this dance would be all-too-happy to share the numerous reasons why you shouldn't buy the phone.

Building a "normal" phone, Microsoft would not have learned what they needed to learn to make a pocket-sized Surface. If you want to make a Surface, you need to make a Surface.

This seems to be one of the emotional stumbling blocks for Android enthusiasts. Just because a company uses Android, doesn't mean they want to make an Android device.

A less successful version of that idea would be Blackberry. DTEK, KEYOne, and KEY2 benefitted from a familiar Android UI, but the OS was heavily customized and patched to deliver a Blackberry experience focused on security. Android fans bristled at a lack of updates (which likely didn't contribute much to the security conversation, considering the heavy customizations), but Blackberry fans "got it". There just weren't enough of those Blackberry fans left to sustain those differences.

A more successful example might be Amazon Fire tablets. Amazon has the resources to build an entire ecosystem and app store, but they still didn't code their own operating system from scratch.

The longer we wait for the Surface Duo, the more anxious we should get. That's understandable. Launching a phone is a ridiculously complicated dance, so intricate it is incredible that any product makes it to consumers. The phone market is also ruthlessly fast. Microsoft's experiences with laptops and tablets look leisurely by comparison.

For the first Surface phone though, it's more important to get it right than to get it out "on time". There is no set schedule for such an important release. If Microsoft should learn anything from the established players in the Android ecosystem, you shouldn't rush a folding phone to market. Samsung can weather that storm. Microsoft can't.

Surface Duo

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Surface needs to arrive as polished as Microsoft can make it. It needs to arrive with a premium price tag regardless of the older specs inside. Microsoft can't start the conversation on this product line devaluing the Surface brand just because Android enthusiasts are used to bargain-basement prices on slightly older chipsets.

It's largely irrelevant looking at Android consumer expectations for what makes a "good" Android phone. The same as it was largely irrelevant asking Dell customers what they wanted in a touchscreen portable slate PC with a detachable keyboard back in 2012. Microsoft has a vision for what the future of their services should resemble. The best way to showcase that vision is to build some hardware.

Most people don't care whether the Surface Duo has top-of-the-line specs because they trust Microsoft to do more with less.

Android fans will obsess over specs and bullet points, and complain about it being too expensive (when we don't know yet how much it will cost), but the reality is, the Surface Duo isn't made for high-performance Android enthusiasts.

The Surface line does not exist to completely displace the Windows laptop ecosystem. In fact, Surface is a fairly conservative collection when you look at the entirety of the PC experience. It stands as a Microsoft flavor, not the only flavor.

The individual interested in a Surface Duo might not care if it has the most powerful CPU, or the most RAM. They probably care that the phone is machined to resemble their Surface Pro, that their favorite services migrate well, and that they can use the same stylus on both devices.

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The hypothetical Surface Duo owner probably isn't tracking what phone maintains the highest FPS in gaming benchmarks, but they might be interested in a first-party solution for Microsoft Game Pass and xCloud. Beefy internals might not be as critical when using services offloaded to servers.

The camera will be touted as another potential deal-breaker. We could draw some parallels with BlackBerry here again, where the KEY cameras were better than the moaning might have indicated, but the hype on mobile cameras doesn't seem to extend far outside enthusiast circles. "Acceptable" camera quality is a wide target, and Android fans seem to fixate on a narrow view of what makes a camera "worth it". A significant swath of consumers worldwide buy different products, at different price points, with different pros and cons. Those consumers seem to live with their phones just fine, even if the cameras onboard aren't always the Android Enthusiast Approved Best Cameras™.

While the Surface Duo camera specs might not be the most exciting, it's another area where "wait and see" should be the correct tactic. How a phone uses a camera sensor is just as important as what sensor is inside. Even as a worst-case example, however, the Surface Duo seems to be built around a future of cloud data and socially distant conference calls. The first generation of this experiment might only need to do that well. Time will tell.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

We can complain about higher prices, but the machining and engineering here matter as much or more than the megapickles and giggleflips. We saw this same debate in a more limited way back in the dark days of Windows RT. The Surface 2 versus the Lumia 2520. Specs nerds complained about the higher price of the Surface 2, the two tablets had roughly comparable internals, but were all too happy to ignore the significantly more expensive build materials employed.

The Surface Duo will fall prey to similar criticisms, as folks conveniently ignore that we've never gotten a wraparound hinge right on a pocket computer. Recently I spoke with TCL executives about folding phones, where they candidly discussed challenges. A folding OLED isn't actually that difficult. But how a phone folds is incredibly difficult. Samsung's experiences here would verify that sentiment. Moving parts on a durable companion gadget are extremely difficult to do well.

This will be the first full-time dual screen with active pen support. The battery life might be bad, it might be good. We can guess, but we don't know that yet. It's not to excuse the phone before it launches, but we shouldn't condemn it, either. Until it's in our hands, it is acceptable to say "I don't know".

What remains is a promise. Can Microsoft deliver on a promise?

A lot of the initial criticisms levied against the Surface Duo ring hauntingly familiar to the jabs poked at the original Surface Pro. Microsoft iterated, improved, and by the Surface Pro 3 we saw a shift in the conversation. Consumers were interested in a product that showed consistency in the market. Because consumers were interested, the tone in reviews evolved.

Microsoft's history with phones is obnoxiously pockmarked. Starts and stops interrupted any potential for consumers to get a clear handle on what made a Microsoft solution different from the competition. By extending the Surface brand to a mobile product, it's hopefully a sign that this is a long-term strategy, like the original Surface.

Maybe Android enthusiasts can benefit from a slower and more carefully considered development pace. Maybe we've been overbuying compute power for years now. Maybe we don't need bleeding-edge specs swapped out every year at higher and higher component costs. Maybe we'd benefit from competing options outside our "normal" expectations.

If Microsoft has learned anything about hardware, we should hope they've learned that a product line cared for over time will succeed. We should hope they aren't hinging all of their future resources on the success of a single product launch. If expectations are managed properly on generation one, then we'll get a path to generation three that makes sense for consumers outside the tech review/tech entertainment space.

Microsoft doesn't need Android fan validation today. Microsoft needs to make the best Surface they can, then show us they can make a better one after that.

WC Staff
  • The last idea, that this needs to be cared for over time, is the one. Most likely, while this device will do some things well, it'll mostly be a failure. The second one will, too. But the rule with MS forever has been "third time's the charm," and my guess is that the Duo 2022 will "nail" it. Or it won't. If it does, expect MS to become a phone powerhouse again. And if it doesn't, just like MS tried three times with WP (WP7, WP8, WP10), when #3 bombs (the L950 was possibly the worst phone of all time upon release), they will kill it.
  • The last thing this device has is time. It is merely a stop-gap before folding screens become mainstream, and that isn't far off.
  • That will just become a debate between the two monitor and ultra wide monitor all over again. I actually would prefer to separate work spaces to a foldable one with all the mechanical compromises that will exist.
  • Absolute rubbish, Bleached. Nothing more than unsubstantiated and biased opinion from you. Having used both the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Z Flip in their Melbourne store I'm not particularly impressed with either.
  • LOL! How ironic. You bash someone else's opinon and then proceed to give your worthless opinion of the Samsung phones.
  • At least my comment was based on objective use of an existing device. Or did you miss that part? And I said it was my opinion of those specific devices after use, as opposed to conjecture. Comprehension fail?
  • Indeed. What you've missed is that this article is not about a product as such, instead focusing on how people are likely to react to various scenarios. In this respect it is extremely balanced, painting a picture both of potential success and failure..... Read it again though and you may see that more than anything else it is also a critique of subjective / knee-jerk reactions and the people involved......people like you........
  • I don't think you know what objective means. Anyways, what is wrong with what I said? Folding screens will certainly become common and when that happens, dual screen will make even less sense then they do now. We have seen plenty of dual screen devices, they aren't really compelling.
  • This is actually well written imho, with clarity and insight.
  • I really liked it too
  • I love, love, love this article. The best article I have ever read. This is so true. As I am someone who is tying to run a business, I'm constantly going between phone to tablet to computer. I start an email on the computer, take a picture with my phone, then email it to myself only to finish it on my computer. Daily I am on video calls and need to recall information I have to look up, while using my phone. I also jump from app to app constantly, this info to that spreadsheet, that pic to powerpoint etc. This is the device I need. I don't take pics for photography, as most people don't. I don't need NFC, most of my purchases are online anyway. At the gas pump, I use a store card to get points, so I may as well swipe a credit card. The wireless charging is another thing, I haven't plugged my phone in in years. I am OK with the 855 chip, I have the note9 which uses the 845, so its still an upgrade for me. I am ready for this device now!! (I also own and use a surface) I want a device I can use as a computer. I want to start something on my phone, then plug my phone into a monitor so I can see it better, and use a mouse and keyboard.
  • They may not have to explain why it exists. But they sure are trying hard to make it relevant with all these teasers which seems desperate to me. It will flop
  • Almost every company uses teasers, it is just an effective and cheap marketing strategy.
  • Honestly Microsoft has killed most of its own loyal fanbase who historically had faith in them. Microsoft has built a reputation for releasing products that get abandoned and it has left a sour taste in too many mouths. Microsoft is too internally broken as a company to work cohesively.
    Internal politics and power struggles between hardware, software, and strategic divisions will keep Microsoft from achieving its goal. I will continue to keep watch but refuse to buy into another Microsoft ecosystem that will likely be a waste of time and money.
    This will need to last several generations and show continuous improvement with coordination between the Microsoft internal divisions and third party developers.
  • This isn't a Microsoft ecosystem. It doesn't matter if it is abandoned by Microsoft on day 2. Several years later Google will still be updating it in the background and it will still be supported. Google still supports WP7 era phones (Android 4.1+), they have designed Android so manufacturer support isn't critical.
  • I enjoyed this article very much, as someone who is very intrigued, and excited by the Surface Duo, and use a Surface Pro on the daily, I agree with your points of view on what Microsoft is doing with the Duo, specification wise, and most of the other points of view you have stated as someone who is a sort of a tech head myself lol 🤣 and always on the lookout for what's the next step in smartphone/mobile device experiences, I like the design of the Duo, and it's new ways of usage for a mobile device, from what I have seen so far anyway, I can see what a third generation device will look like and going by the transition of the Surface Pro models if the Duo is a succes, which I hope it is, future Duo's will hopefully, add features especially features which other premium smartphones have,after Microsoft has refined the Duo, like they have with the Surface Pro range, from the rumoured specifications of the Duo, what I would like to add is NFC, that's all, as that really should be a specification that should have made the grade on the first model, especially in today's world, I currently use the NFC feature of my device everyday, In Australia tap to go payments made everywhere, from public transportation, to buying that coffee, and I sometimes leave my wallet at home, I'm currently using a Galaxy Fold, once you use a smartphone like this its extremely hard to go back to a normal slab device, reading books is a fantastic experience, on the fold, and I'm sure it will be a fantastic experience on the Duo, I generally wish Microsoft all the best with the Duo, I will know doubt buy One, as it's just to intriguing to me, even without the NFC, but I'm not sure other customers who see those super high specs will.
  • So I love the entire Surface line. And have a ton of Surfaces myself. But honestly, I can't see myself buying this if its sold at premium price. The Go 2 is such a great device but only when you spec the entire thing out. I have a Pro7 and it sucks to have a device with a 128GB. You are always making sure you have enough space and when it starts to dwindle down you have to remove something. But at the price of a Go 2 for 256G it really becomes questionable. The Duo looks like it should be a powerhouse. And I get the 855 soc isn't bad and me coming from a Galaxy S8+ it will be leap years in difference. But then you have to factor in the cost, if money means something to you. Then how can you honestly say spending $1,000 on a product that is 2 years old is actually smart. I get that it might not be that much, but hypothetically speaking if it does come out with a price tag that is meant for a premium phone. And the spec sheet is what is being reported, I just can't see people spending that much money.
  • Just remember surface devices generally aren't cheap. Much like Apple, products, you pay for the brand, the design, and to a lesser degree, exclusivity.
  • For me update support is nowadays more a sign whether a phone is dated or not (besides worn parts of course), not so much the previous cpu being used (the only noticeable upgrade is from 855 to 865, so its actually only 1 year difference practically speaking). I do expect MS to price the entry model at 1000 incl taxes or lower, otherwise it gets a bit to close to the Galaxy Fold pricing (which is priced absurdly too).
    Ps: it is not just a phone, it is a dual screen phone (2nd screen is not free, that needs to be taken into account for the pricing).
  • $699 is my bet, maybe $799 starting. It will be no more than that, even Daniel has hinted it will be well priced.
  • Daniel hinted 1000$+. Might have said something new in the meantime.
  • It was a while ago on the podcast I think, but if I recall he said we would be surprised by the price or something to that effect.
  • Wow, well done!
  • The question is what it's going to fit. I already have a Surface Go. I'd be tempted by a Surface phone, particularly with its dual screens, but then it has to be able to replace my existing phone. I don't care about the number on the processor as long as it's fast enough. I don't much care about the camera. But if it lacks something as basic as NFC it's a non-starter. So the way things are looking at the moment I'll probably have to wait for that third generation model, hoping they will have noticed by then that in these pandemic days and whatever follows contactless payments are quite important, and especially useful on a phone where the transaction is immediately recorded.
  • I'd love to get a duo, the dual screens sounds great imo. However I have a CGM that is read by NFC. I've had NFC since my galaxy note 2 with an add on cover and its been integrated into my phone since my note 5. I'm not sure why its left out. I'm guessing its because of the casing material. Camera is also important , unless that single front facing camera is of the highest quality its going to lag behind even low end phones when it comes to taking video and pictures. It might be great if my job gives me one and I have my own personal phone. But to replace my phone when it doesn't do two of the thigns i need would not be in the cards. I'd hate to have to carry a point and shoot with me and my cgm reader just to get dual screens. I think my best bet as a Windows fan is to get a neo. That would replace my surface pro 6 for the majority of my needs and i can repalce my physical planner also. I can then get a flip phone like the galaxy fold or flip and then have the neo with a larger screen. Get the best of all worlds.
  • No more Neo, unfortunately
  • Neo is a unicorn. It will never be launched.
  • The lack of NFC is the desk breaker for me, sinve I use it alot for mobile payments. Alas though we have globak pandemic so I go out way less pretty much only for more important things. But still mobile payments is actually more important now since it is recommended to use tap to pay than giving out cash.
  • Great piece! You nailed how some of the tech press will receive this device that is why I hope Microsoft chooses who it distributes review units to carefully. I'm not looking for puffery, but you know something different from the Apple ecosphere or endless stream of slab Androids will not be understood, sometimes deliberately and sometimes honestly from much of the tech press, and even some of the commenters on Windows Central. This is a Surface device. Like all other Surface devices, it won't be chock full of the latest tech. It will be well built, attractive and highly functional- for those who have the use case for a two screen device. Your comparison of the Duo to the Pro is right on target.
  • I've never been more excited about an Android device (or any pocketable device for that matter) than I am with the Duo. It's a very different approach to foldables than Galaxy Fold. While the Fold is basically an awkward tablet that fits in the pocket, the Duo with its dual displays and 360 hinge offers a superior experience whether in supported dual screen apps, multitasking with multiple apps, or even using it as a normal phone.
    The software demo that Zac did lately shows how powerful and almost "magical" this device will be.
  • We have had a few dual screens before. They have been far less than magical. A folding single screen is better in every way. Dual screen apps still work the same and single screen apps now have a ton more real estate.
  • This title is another way of saying "Microsoft is not making an Android phone for Android users. It's making an Android phone for the Windows users" I'm tempted to think that is MS's goal here. It wants to be the company that provides productivity tech goods and services for people who work (and incidentally play) as opposed to people who play (and incidentally work). The problem is that it takes the company 2 to 3 iterations to get it right. Which is in this day and age (of high tech) many times is just not good enough and that is the central reason why they have so many product redundancies. Their corporate mentality seems to be very slowly transforming into a more purely market driven from more purely engineering and research driven. They need to discard this "Lab" mentality and be bolder in their commitment and belief in their own products.
  • Yeah, I think Microsoft's end goal is to get more users on Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, and Azure. I'm guessing the Duo (and later the Neo) will tie in nicely with those services. Also, Duo might be a good way to get more people to use the Microsoft Launcher for Android.
  • I always thought the duo is a neat concept that is just way to awkward for one handing. I'll stick with a phone that is the size of an iPhone se 2020 and My go that is perfect for computing. I'm in the minority that prefers two devices that work on the move VS a compromised folding Samsung/Microsoft phone thing. I Will gladly wait till the Z flip drops in price. That to me is the perfect phone concept
  • And why didn't Microsoft simply build "Dual Screen" in software in a single screen folding device from the beginning!? Why?
  • You mean single folding screen as the galaxy fold has? If yes: Those don't support (full) glass yet, is not as flexible as a 360 hinge and are more prone to break (and probably more expensive to design).
  • The next gen of flexible glass should take care of the quality issues. The current second gen isn't bad in and of itself. Otherwise they could have gone for a mini clamshell hinge design a la SB series. They've more or less acquiesced that starting from a single screen design for 10x makes more sense and I can't help but think the hardware questions were a factor in that decision. I'm not so sure how different that argument would be with Android.
  • Why would you prefer a clam shell hinge design for the Duo? A 360 degree hinge is superior for this use case in about every way. Also this way if you put a screen protector on both screens it will be safe to put it unfolded in your pocket, that could be handy for taking calls (something the Fold cannot do). Besides, if MS ever makes a 2nd or 3rd iteration I think we can expect smaller bezels (also in the center).
  • This was an excellent article. Great rebuttal to yesterday's bashing article of the Duo. IMO
  • Great read. I appreciate this article. I am one of those who really never expect the first iteration of anything to have all the bells and whistles and to be patient and see what follows in the future. My concerns however is the Android part. Personally I want a Microsoft powered device and not a device powered by Android. I realize there are many out there who are happy with the Android factor and that's great for them. I only hope this is a success and somehow Microsoft then makes a Microsoft based device as well in the future.
  • I'm guessing with Surface Neo (Windows 10X) might meet your needs.
  • Absolutely! This is one device I'm am thoroughly looking for!!!! Granted I wish it uses live tiles, but I want a small computer type device. I currently have an 8 inch computer but it's too slow and just feels out of place using Windows 10. Windows 10 as a whole on such small devices is so stark and un-useful (to me). I wished the Tablet mode was as good as Windows 8. But it looks like that will never happen.
  • What I'm really looking for is a Surface that can fit in my pocket. The hardware nails it, but I'm still disappointed by the limitations of Android. I'll probably get one, but only on the hopes that someone figures out a way to hack Windows onto it like they did with the Lumia 950. I wish Microsoft also made an Andromeda version, or even a duel-boot. Give users a choice. Us enterprise users are still looking forward to the day when we can dock our pocketable windows device and use it like any other docked Surface.
  • What limitations does Android have that 10x doesn't?
  • I'm also curious, especially if there are Android versions of Microsoft 365 apps.
  • 100% agree.. A "normal" phone would have been picked apart.. And while Microsoft was wasting their time with that, Samsung and others would be perfecting the narrative around what makes a "normal" foldable phone and Microsoft would be left behind the curve yet again.. Foldables are the Wild West right now and now is the time for Microsoft to get out there and perfect their vision of a pocketable Surface
  • Solid article. I found myself nodding internally several times. Microsoft has shown a realization that the Surface line is key to leading the defense of their Windows and services from a hardware standpoint. It couldn't be left to the OEMs and the industry has been the better. I like what you said. Surface is the brand and it can take any form as required by Microsoft. Instead of a unified OS they have unified branding of unique hardware experience for their services. I do wish that Windows was more consistent and compelling design-wise. It still comes across sometimes as a jumble of incomplete graphical ideas (where's the next stage of Fluent design?). I am one of those Windows Phone lovers (7 was still the best OS conceptually) who look at the new iOS widgets and see a bit of what Windows Live Tiles could have been (the layered widget you can scroll through) if given the resources to mature naturally.
  • WP7 certainly wasn't the best conceptually or in reality. It didn't even have a functional notification system! Straight garbage and Microsoft paid the price for it.
  • Well written piece. The discussion about the idea of Microsoft making a standard Android phone got me thinking about an aspect I've never considered. It's my understanding that with the closing of the Lumia line, a lot of the phone hardware team was let go. This may have played into Microsoft's thinking. Had Microsoft made a regular slab phone, they would get no grace. If the camera was sub-par, there would be no grace. Older hardware would get no grace. All because it's a unique device, some people will give it more grace than they would have otherwise. So, in a sense, it's a smarter move to do something unique than build another slab.
  • I am Satya Panay and I endorse this message 😉
  • Agree completely with this article, even if I suspect I won't buy Duo v1 due to some missing features. (Something like wireless charging is not giggleflips and what-not. It's basic convenience at this point.)
  • Wireless charging is kinda pointless when compared to the fast charging available today. It is so slow and would ruin the form factor of the Duo, it would add too much thickness. Wireless charging isn't an option for a device like this.
  • Tbh, I thought I was the only one that felt this way. I have a wireless charger and and super fast charger with the p30 pro. Yes, it's convenient to just put it down when I'm at my desk or by my nightstand but I find myself using my fast wired charger to get it out of the way in about 5 mins vs an hour with my 15W wireless charger
  • To each their own. I think you'll find for many people that the convenience of qi wireless charging outweighs the faster charging speed of wired. Clearly, you and bleached are happy without.
  • A very well written piece that really hits on why I'm interested in the Duo. I don't want another Android device that serves to be like all the others, or to mimic an iPhone that mimics an Android device. Phones are so boringly similar as to be commodities. What I DO want is something that integrates with all the services I use, is familiar in execution and drives desire to own. I want something much closer to a pocket tablet that has telephony baked in than a cell phone that has some half-baked compute.
  • Samsung Fold actually is a pocket tablet and integrates with all the services. Dual screens isn't a pocket tablet, it is two phones.
  • I know I'm excited! Can't wait!
  • As an owner of (in sequence) Surface RT, Surface 3, Surface Pro ('17), and now Surface Pro 7, plus getting my daughter a Surface Go, I am the target demographic... And my Note 9 will retire on launch. I had PPC, WM, WP7-8, and W10M devices, and while the Note 9 was a power boost, nothing about the ensuing generations have sparked any interest, because they aren't anything new, nor worth a premium to upgrade. As a professor who moves between classes, labs, admin meetings, and remote teaching I can see a lot of scenarios where this would be useful.
  • I completely agree. I just bought a Surface Go 2 for my daughter who's a Sophomore in Highschool. I myself have a Surface Pro ('17) which replaced my Surface 3. From a productivity and integration standpoint, you can't beat what Windows provides. One of the reasons Windows is used by most government agencies and big business companies. Experiencing those services on a "Surface" takes it to another level. I will be pre-ordering my Duo as soon as they allow it.
  • A refreshing, healthy article like Daniel's: Stop and think! -articles.
    I noticed he iterated what Daniel's been telling us: It's okay to say: 'I don't know". I would like to see more articles like these, to combat the mindless haters. Ignorance is impossible to combat, but when articles like the one from Android reaches Windows Central, it's important.
    This was exactly what I was hoping for - after reading the start of the Android Central article and thinking: This guy doesn't get it, why did they even put that on Windows Central?
  • As someone said earlier in this conversation I think a lot of consumers have lost faith in MS and their products. My Windows Phone journey started at the HTC Titan and after numerous phones including the magnificent Nokia 1050 ended up with the Lumia 950xl.
    Throughout that journey we watched the hopes and dreams of a 3rd phone ecosystem rise and fall. I for one remember logging onto Windows Central every day to see the news and shaking my head at what terrible decisions Microsoft was making.
    I have used Windows since I retired off my souped up Amiga 1200 and yet two weeks ago I installed Lubuntu on my main desktop to give it a try... It's on a dual boot, but to be honest I've not booted into windows once yet.
    With my current phone, (Pixel 3xl) the phone integrates into the desktop far better than the Your Phone equivalent on Windows. My pixel is using MS Launcher beta, which having tried many other Android launchers has become my favourite.
    Miscosoft needs to pull something extraordinary out of the bag for the Duo.
    I can live without the wireless charging, but as others have said NFC is a must given the new contactless world we are living in.
  • After losing the war Microsoft is in a sort of stigma that there will be a new form factor that will replace the phones and in which they will lead again. There is really no reason to think of that. It is like if you failed to manufacture the cars and say that 5 seaters will be a thing of past soon. Yes such thing may happen eventually but usually it takes centuries for form factor to change and not few years, as form factor is not dictated by the technology but by the size of human body, human family etc. Surface Duo is a product of this illusion.
  • I don't think Microsoft thinks this device or any dual-screen device will replace phones. That's like saying Apple thought the iPad would replace phone.
  • No that is not the same. iPad has two major differences - it doesn't fit into the pocket and it doesn't support telephony. You may argue that this is not the phone which is fine as it is a matter of philosophical debate how something will be called, but let's agree on something - chances that someone will carry both this device and the phone in the pocket are minimal as both devices can perform the same tasks just they perform some of those tasks better. So yes, it is meant as a phone replacement.
  • From the recent pictures, I'm not totally sure if the Neo will be all that "pocketable." It seems a bit wide to me. And no, Panos Panay has purposely de-emphasized the calling functionality. I have a feeling many people will carry the Duo like a fold-able, LTE iPad mini and not like a huge phone.
  • They never presented the Neo as being pocketable. Plus I think both screens are like 9.x inches with a wider aspect ratio
  • I am not sure why do you bring Neo to the discussion, hopefully you wanted to say Duo. Anyway if that is intended use case it is really hard to say what this device has over iPad mini. Even if it was a perfect foldable phone you would have trouble that this is Android and the software is under optimized for tablets. Being an Android tablet is a problematic category from the very start. But on top of that it has a hinge, so apps won't work in full screen mode unless they are compiled for that and 99.9% of apps won't be. Finally even if it had optimized software for the hinge for most use cases it is a deal breaker if you compare it to the plain iPad Mini. And it is hard to say why it might be better than iPad Mini. It will be more expensive. While technically there might be some bags where it may fit while iPad Mini won't overall it will take same or more space and weight and iPad Mini still fits into most of the bags. The only thing where it may make some sense it typing in a sort of 'laptop' mode. However even that isn't a complete win - on iPad when you type you have free more than half of the screen so some people wouldn't like that trade off.
  • Anyway your whole assumption is wrong. The closed size will be comparable to iPhone 11 (Duo has smaller screens but it has wide top and bottom bars), the best selling phone at the moment. It might be a bit wider and less tall, but far from non-pocketable.
  • An article written for Android fans, then put in the Windows blog to gain free traffic from angry readers.
  • "It's my hypothesis that Microsoft isn't interested in making an Android phone. Microsoft wants to make a smaller Surface." This isn't even a hypotheses. Panos more or less said exactly this when he unveiled the devices. People have short memories, and most don't fully understand Microsoft's post Windows Phone strategy, so the author's counterpoint is needed. But in the end, it won't help much. This will be another device like the Surface Pro X that is aimed at a very specific audience, but judged against flagship phones for its universal appeal, and it will be found wanting for probably the wrong reasons. I don't pay attention to YouTube "reviewers" but the rash of harsh commentary from these as armchair quarterbacks is easy to predict.
  • It is clear they need mobile consumers. The only thing they can do is build this the way it is with Android. There is no where for them to go any time soon. The real question is will Microsoft be in Android for the long haul? If so what does that actually mean for organizations, people and Microsoft? Is that good or is that difficult? We know this thing is coming, the only thing special for it (at least imo) is that it is for all Surface users who need a leap in portability and the only way they can do it is with portable Android. Windows is not ready yet to do what Android does and may never be....If the Neo is coming too, maybe this all is a big leap in experimentations/RnD? Why else releast two similarly-like devices running two separate Platforms? It is not just so that they can...there is a reason.
  • However, what DOES need to be explained is why anyone needs this thing. Since it clearly is not a replacement for your current phone, convincing business travelers to carry 3 devices instead of 2 (phone and laptop) is going to be a tough sell.
  • Why does anyone need a Surface Studio? Why does anyone need a Surface book? I believe the purpose of the Surface division is to experiment with new form factors. If the products sell in huge numbers, great. If not, at least Microsoft was willing to experiment in a way that Dell, Lenovo, and other OEMs were not.
  • Business travelers don't think of carrying a phone as carrying an "extra" device. Generally, no one does.
  • No one needed an iPhone, yet it is the de facto standard of smartphone now. Sometimes it's necessity through luxury that ultimately entices people to feel they can't live without something. The success of the Duo is ultimately going to be determined by a plethora of variables. From the "Surface" name branding, to the marketing scheme, to availability. The big MSFT hardware carriers like Best Buy will surely have the Duo. The bigger question is what cell phone carriers will have the Duo? How will the Duo be presented? The Surface slogan of "The tablet that can replace your laptop" resonated. It will be interesting to see who they frame this. I for one have been excited ever since it was introduced and have been holding off on updating my current daily driver in anticipation of the Duo release. I would like to see more Surface devices sold in stores. I think that would help. With the MSFT stores closing, hopefully there's a bigger push to get devices like Surface Headphones and the Surface Studio into stores like Best Buy.
  • Thanks for this article. I was going to counter-post on that "other" article you mention but I realized it wasn't worth my time. Some people are just too far gone. Surface Duo appeals to ME. Right now. It's not even out yet. I think it's BECAUSE it's not just another wanna-be flagship phone. It's entirely different. And it's calling my name.
  • I'm not quite into the tone of this article, which is mostly like "let's have faith in Surface". I find it plausible the prediction that Duo won't be so great, but I agree that it is premature to make articles. What is worthy to be discussed is not so much about the specs that tech-fixated people would expect, but about the overall strategy chosen by Microsoft.
    If the focus hadn't been to sell well to consumers, neither to satisfyingly replace a smartphone, please tell me for what reason on earth they replaced the long developed windows mobile, and the related UWP mobile store, with years of mobile NOTHING except the rumors about some double screen android. I mean, if you just want to please your "Surface customers" niche, at least do it right. Windows on ARM and perhaps android app emulation. There are more decent ways to manage a niche to me.
  • I am sure that there are some people in Microsoft ache to make a phone. The "Apple envy" has not gone away. Back in 2006 they had a respectable 30% of the mobile phone market with the successor to Pocket PC and phones like the Treo were competing with Blackberry. When Microsoft made stuff it sold because Microsoft was the company with 90% of the PC market. After 2007 they wanted to be Apple. They held a "funeral" for the iphone on the Redmond campus in 2010 to herald the end of the iphone. To mis-quote a Monty Python sketch, "it wasn't dead it wasn't even asleep". Microsoft used their old formula of selling PCs. License the OS and have OEMs build the phones. Surface was the opposite. Build the PCs that OEMs weren't building because Windows can be better and we will show you how. If the philosphy of WindowsPhone had been the same as Surface then Nokia wouldn't have happened and WindowsPhone would have been SurfacePhone. These days they have to make us believe the Duo is definitely not a phone. It can do everything a mobile phone can do but it's not a phone. They have made up this backstory that dual screens are more productive so that they can justify a "productivity device" in the Surface lineup. You can even use it as a phone. People wanted a Surface Laptop but they had to wait. A "pro" was a tablet that could be a laptop. A "book" was a tablet that you attached to a real keyboard. Then they gave in and made a Surface Laptop. Once the memory of WindowsPhone fades a little more they will announce a single screen Surface Duo. A phone running Android.
  • Ok. I get it. I do not agree though. But MS are also maskin the Neo, and like the turk sales man on the market said when he gave me a red Nike after I asked for an smaller blue Adidas t-shirt, "it's same same but different". Yes, I can wear it, it probably fits better, but I wanted blue Adidas, not red Nike. On the same market my wife wanted a purse of a brand I don't remember, but they did not have one in the store. No problem, they took the purse in the back and rebranded it chanhing the pin. She even got the first pin so she could switch later. "original" they told us. MS could have made us a version of the Duo running W10x. Or let us choose. If not, I hope someone can offer us taking it in the back, do some switches, and give us a W10x duo, "original" like.
  • Well-written article. I believe Android is merely the vehicle that Microsoft is using to deliver the Surface experience on phones. Using Android immediately offsets the deficiencies in the Windows ecosystem for the phone form-factor, the biggest one being the apps. Plus, Microsoft has been for years focused in delivering critical productivity software (a.k.a. Office) to all platforms, including Apple. This allows them to provide the same from their Surface device. There will be better "Your Phone" app integration with this one to further the Surface experience. Overall, it can appeal to existing Surface owners as well as it will to the non-Surface owners. It might even help the Surface line to grow further.
  • I think this upcoming Surface Duo device is intended primarily for corporate use and prosumers. A lot of multinationals shifted towards iPhones after BB and they are now confronted with a maddening hyper expensive replacement cycle for their existing iPhone basis at virtual no rebate from Cupertino. In addition there has been a reluctance to embrace android in corporate because of the security challenges and the updating complexity. If MS can offer a Surface alike device with additional security layers on top of android at a reasonable price (with real corporate rebates) with a seamless Office integration they will get corporate attention and they will have a huge potential market without the risks of the "flavor of the day" craze in the consumer market. And the prosumers, they will buy it as "let's give it a try" awaiting the upcoming surface Neo.
  • I read and commented on Mr. Martonik’s article prior to reading this one. It is quite fair to say the Mr. Bagnell and I are in concert with each other that building a slab phone is essentially building a device for the last wave of innovation and utterly overlooks that dual screen devices are a significant moment of disruption that gives Microsoft an opportunity accomplish a number of strategic goals. To paraphrase Mr. Bagnell’s central premise, you don’t build a great Surface device by building an iPhone. What version of iPhone doesn’t matter as the first version was a stunning design and technological leap that over the next decade never repeated that leap but which iterated brilliantly. It is breath taking what was accomplished. That hardware design is mature, and that Microsoft is not spending its resources there indicates the company has thought long and hard about the Titanic disaster Windows mobile turned out to be. So, what is a Surface? My experience, once we get past the first two versions, is the Surface Pro was the most significant PC over the last decade as it gave us a device that allowed us to use it like a phone/tablet and by snapping on a keyboard gave you a full blown PC running a proper OS and all that entails. If you tossed in LTE connectivity you could even say it is a mobile device in the phone sense to some degree. Further, the Surface Pro X is the logical extension of that brilliant design and points to the future of Surface hardware, its huge bet on ARM CPUs and recasting Windows to run on ARM. That Apple is headed in this exact direction is a serious proof point that Microsoft nailed the design and use case cold on day one though it took them a few versions to get it right. Typical Microsoft. Later, once they had a functioning business unit, the team expanded the product line to the Surface Book, the Surface Laptop and the Surface Studio. In a decade. That the Surface Duo and Surface Neo are taking a little longer to bake is not that worrisome from that perspective. The team does have families and such that need attention from time to time after all. The real mobile challenge now is for Microsoft to have a robust mobile story which is exceedingly challenging given their stunning mismanagement of the Windows mobile space. Thankfully, Mr. Nadella had the sense to put that sick dog down. That is a tough legacy to outrun and rightly makes a lot of eyebrows around the world fly off into space when the words Microsoft, Windows, and phone are uttered. However, if one takes a step back the outlines of a strategy to get back into the mobile space can be seen. They accepted Windows as a mobile OS was a dead dog and that their only path was to say “if you can’t beat them, join them,” which they did by releasing and ever expanding catalog of excellent applications on iOS and Android. This gave them serious experience developing for those platforms upon which to build more. That they have essentially co-opted Android right from under Google’s nose is not a small matter. My reading of the technology press and comments about the Surface Duo seem stuck on the story that Microsoft’s mobile chops are about on par with a those found in a middle school software class. Further, that the company is utterly incapable of learning from its disasters and is doomed for all eternity to forever release phones whose names seem lifted from a Dr. Seuss book. Of course, I mean Kin 1 and Kin 2. Frankly, that is just dumb. Microsoft is one of the most significant software companies on the planet and is now being led by one of the most important minds in the history of computing: Mr. Nadella. The whining about the Surface Duo Android development being outsourced ignores the fact that this project from start to finish is a Microsoft project, managed by Microsoft, specified by Microsoft, and is targeted at Microsoft hardware. That Microsoft hired the team is an indication that they just went all in, spread eagle on the Surface Duo. ARM silicon sure looks like the future of personal computing devices provided one accepts that all devices now, other than desktops, are mobile devices, in the phone sense, and will need great battery life, persistent 5G connectivity, have at least Core i5 performance, and be thin and light. The Surface Duo under this premise is a perfect moment to reenter the mobile space as dual screen “phones” hold the potential to be the next significant innovation. Given that this space is wide open, Microsoft has a real shot at being a player here and that they are betting on Android is spot on as they gain all the benefits of the application store and the opportunity to capture new Surface users as they buy new devices. Toss in the interoperability potential with the Surface Pro X and suddenly this becomes a no brainer. Lots of challenges here. Given what Microsoft has accomplished since 2014 I can’t wait for them to get to work on the next 10 years. If they can pull off the Surface Duo, and I am betting they will, how we talk about Microsoft, Windows (ok, Android), and Phones will make that earlier fiasco diminish. We are on the cusp of one of the most spectacular decades in computing and Microsoft is back in the game fully.
  • This all sounds good until Samsung holds Unpacked a week from Wednesday and drops the Galaxy Fold 2 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra...need true mini-tablet, go Fold 2, need stylus, get the superior Wacom S Pen of the GN20 Ultra. Need both (plus get a thick seam down the middle, no 5g, and similar price points), wait for Panos to tease the Duo again...