Surface Duo kernel source code released by Microsoft

Surface Duo 2020
Surface Duo 2020 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft has released the kernel source code for the Surface Duo.
  • Having access to the kernel source code makes it easier to create custom ROMs.
  • The Surface Duo also has an unlockable bootloader, which makes modding easier for developers.

Microsoft's Surface Duo only launched yesterday, and the company has already released its kernel source code (via Android Police). Having access to the kernel source code can help third-party developers create custom ROMs and kernels for the Surface Duo. You can grab the code on GitHub.

Manufacturers are required to release underlying code for devices running Linux-based operating systems, including Android.

Modders will have quite a bit of access to the Surface Duo. In addition to sharing the kernel source code on GitHub, Microsoft confirmed that the Surface Duo ships with an unlockable bootloader. This makes it easier for modders to unlock and customize the device. Theoretically, modders could create custom ROMs for the Surface Duo and flash them onto the device, though it could be some time before we see that due to the time and effort required.

While it will be some time until we see any mods of the Surface Duo's software, you can customize its hardware a bit with one of the best Surface Duo cases.

Microsoft Surface Duo


Sean Endicott
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Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at (opens in new tab).

  • Did Microsoft do this to allow their Duo users to install Windows 10X on their device when it's ready?
  • Microsoft has really gotten behind the open-sourced movement. They bought GitHub to help facilitate it. They have even provided the Edge source code for people to be able to help them with it or create their own browser. I think that has more to do with it. Windows Phone failed because of the Death Circle. People weren't buying because of lack of apps, developers weren't making apps because people weren't buying the phone. This will help prevent those same issues with the Duo line. If you make the tools easily available you make it easier for developers to use them. They are even starting to play nice with Linux. I doubt that 10X will support telephony on it. There is someone that was able to modify WoA to run on the Lumia 950/950XL and they had a lot of trouble even getting WiFi to work and last I saw you still had to boot into Windows 10 Mobile to make calls.
  • Edge is not open-source and has never been. Only ChakraCore, Edge Legacy's JavaScript engine, was. Unless I missed out on something.
    Making an OS open-source, even less only the kernel as in this case, does nothing about apps being made for that OS, so something like this would not have saved Windows Phone.
  • They made it Open Source this year. You can find it on GitHub right here:
  • No, these repo only contain some example for webview2 component, and other documents.
  • Chromium is open-source.
    Any changes Microsoft makes to Chromium is open source too.
    I think Edge just calls the Chromium API and is LGPL and so not Open Source
  • Chromium is open-source, but not Edge. Microsoft makes many contributions to Chromium and those are open-source, but the entirety of their browser is not. Chromium's license is permissive and allows keeping all changes to it proprietary. The parts of Chromium that Google makes are licensed under a BSD license, not LGPL, though some other code components that Chromium uses are. Edge's codebase forks Chromium's codebase, there is no "Chromium API", which honestly I think is a term you have misunderstood (if you think the misunderstanding is on my end, I'd be happy to be corrected). If Edge were licensed with LGPL, it would be open-source, which it is not. "LGPL and so not open-source" is simply wrong because LGPL absolutely is an open-source license:
  • WoA on Lumia has come on pretty massively actually. Almost everything works in the hardware and there is calling and SMS. Unfortunately, the 950XL is just not powerful enough to be usable and battery life is about 1 hour (though I only get 3-5 hours in Windows Mobile these days as well so think the battery is just dead). People have even made custom shells that make Win10 act more like Windows Mobile in tablet mode. As a proof of concept or works well and makes me want this on a proper device with appropriate hardware!
  • "Manufacturers are required to release underlying code for devices running Linux-based operating systems, including Android."
  • I think OP was referring to the unlockable bootloader. OEMs are not required to provide that information.
  • I was thinking about both in combo.
  • Required by who? What "underlying code"? Does Samsung do this?
  • The Linux kernel GPL license oblies you to open source derivative works.
    Yes if they change the code.
  • Samsung has a shell that runs on top of Linux.
    That shell is not GPL licensed and does not need to be.
  • But MediaTek mostly refuses to release their MTK SoC kernel codes. Ignoring GPL.
  • Windows 10X was written for a different Snapdragon SoC. I will not be so simple to get it to run, but people will try and it only takes one to succeed.
  • There are Windows on ARM devices out there running on Snapdragon 8cx which is simply the Snapdragon 855 (that Duo has) reworked slightly and rebranded. It may not be as big of a challenge to get the SoC drivers actually.
  • It would be very interesting to see what kind of custom ROMs will be cooked up for this device, especially since Microsoft makes it easy to unlock the Surface Duo bootloader. Ironic how one of Android's biggest frenemies is also more open to people tinkering with its Android devices than other OEMs (*cough cough*Samsung and LG *cough cough*)
  • That's because MS is looking for ways to improve their phone.
  • LOL, desperate post the release of this unpolished train wreck.
  • Uhh what's desperate?
  • Microsoft should probably have released a developer version of Duo like they do with some other products. There would be more software available and fewer bugs
  • I just want something that looks more like WinMo, (or even Win8) and less like Apple.
  • Bring on WoA! Woot!
  • I thought Android Police were just called Blade Runner..? 😅