back to article The Surface Duo isn't such an outlandish idea, but Microsoft has to convince punters the form factor is worth having

The Surface Duo isn't an original idea – just look at LG's newest V60 smartphone or Toshiba's quirky Libretto Libretto W100 laptop. There's an air of experimentation about these devices, appearing to outsiders as a less-than-serious punt on a new direction. A gamble, essentially. But Microsoft's new form factor feels more …

  1. The Original Steve

    Interested, but I'll pass

    At first glance yesterday I thought they can jog right on at that price with those spec's, but actually after watching the press briefing video today I'm far more interested in it. Can see the value proposition for those who commute via public transport to be fully productive without having to get a laptop out (which is never practical). The money clearly goes on the screens which whilst isn't as cool as the actual single folding screens from Huawei and Samsung seems to have a lot of engineering in it and does appear to be genuinely well thought through, well optimised and very productive.

    But this is MS we're talking about, which means no way will I try a 1st generation product. (Ex-Windows Phone, Band and Groove user here!)

    If this is still going strong in 3 years time, I'd be very tempted by a 3rd generation version of it. As long as they have the stamina that is.

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Interested, but I'll pass

      If I wasn't retired, I'd probably buy one. When I graduated (or was demoted) from IT development to IT management I spent most of my office life in Office and most of my non-office life on call, also in Office. This would be a great tool.

      I suspect that the current version won't move beyond the professional niche and they are probably focusing on enterprise app developers at the moment.

      OTOH, I could see a consumer push with a co-op game on one screen and a chat on the other. But it would probably need a chip upgrade for that,

  2. EvilGardenGnome

    Early edition

    This feels like an early release to test the technology and evolve the platform in the wild. MS did similar things with Kinect and MS Band. Kinect eventually yielded HoloLens, while the Band died.

    For the Duo, I'm having a bit of trouble seeing the progression, however. I really like the concept, but outside of further miniaturizing computers, what's the endgame?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Early edition

      "what's the endgame?"

      I'm hoping the progression will be from this to properly flexible roll-out displays and then on to holographic projections floating in the air, although that latter might be a security and privacy issue :-)

      What I'd like to see eventually is something the size of a large thick fountain pen that pulls out to an A5 landscape sized screen. It might need some new and innovation engineering to make it stay open and rigid though :-)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does it run Windows?

    Oh right, never mind then.

    1. [VtS]Alf

      Re: Does it run Windows?

      It actually runs Android with an MS skin.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Does it run Windows?

      Out of curiosity, would you want it running Windows? It's running Android, which well I'll admit I don't like it very much, but at least it's open and compatible with other mobile devices. In addition, Android has been designed for mobile devices with touchscreens as the primary or only interfaces, which is what this has. Windows has been adding that support, but I don't think the Windows tablet experiment worked very well given that I haven't seen any of the cheap tablets still around and every Surface I see has a keyboard connected. Then again, they're also working on a Windows-based thing that's shaped kind of similarly, so maybe you'll want that when they get around to releasing it.

      1. RM Myers Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Does it run Windows?

        I seriously liked windows phone 10 or mobile 10 or whatever the hell it ended up being called. The software was great, the lack of apps not so great. However, my Lumia 640 felt every bit as snappy as my iphone 11 despite the clearly inferior hardware, and the apps that were available didn't have nearly the glitches that the same apps, from the same companies, have on IOS. And it got 5 years of updates versus the 1+ my Samsung Galaxy got.

        I guess I had form for choosing the loser - I bought a laptop with HD DVD instead of Blu-Ray. Oh well, at least I bought VHS and not Betamax.

  4. StrangerHereMyself

    Seriously

    Seriously...why would anyone buy an Android phone from Microsoft? Why in hell is Microsoft even bothering to bring to market another Android phone?

    It boggles the mind!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I Seriously want to make a Pwnie Express out of this

      You ask what anyone would want to do with a dual screen clamshell phone from M$ that runs android? I'd turn it into a pwn phone, with a kali linux rom. I'd also try to fix is most glaring shortcoming, which is that like most phone manufacturers, it needs to be rotated 90 degrees.

      One screen for displays and one for soft keys or context specific controls.

      Though users comments are 100% correct, these are likely to be unicorn devices, and few app developers will ever add the optimizations to make apps shine on this platform.

      Then M$ will quietly announce a retreat and discontinue the project they allowed to fail because they keep using the "Field of Dreams" model, where they just build the platform, and leave it as a bare skeleton, expecting others to flock to the new creation and sew flesh to it's bones for them.

      1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Bronze badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: I Seriously want to make a Pwnie Express out of this

        "One screen for displays and one for soft keys or context specific controls."

        I had a Samsung non-smartphone with a dual hinge that had something only vaguely similar but pretty cool at the time: The "keypad" was a rectangular array of small, square e-ink (or similar) displays/buttons. They could give you something like a standard 1-9 keypad + 4-way arrow in portrait, or QWERTY in landscape.

        But they missed the context-specific opportunities, especially for mobile gaming. Given that the speakers (yes, stereo!) were decent (first time I used song clips for ringtones), I wanted a white/black key "pocket piano".

        (A few years later I got an iPhone and had a piano app ever since.)

  5. Detective Emil
    Meh

    I'd like to like it, but …

    … an iPad Mini is a whole lot cheaper (although it can't place conventional phone calls, and it does not fold (although people try [YouTube]).

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: I'd like to like it, but …

      I enjoyed that video.

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I can only really see it being bought by people who use the compatible MS app for business use. As I don't foresee it appealing to the younger generation who would rather spent $1000+ on an Iphone due to it being more desirable as a status symbol.

    And if it only has an small install base then their is not much incentive for app developers to support the second screen.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      For many apps,. they may not need to so long as the OS and app are happy to play together split screen, one app per screen. Or for your browser of choice to open across one large screen.

  7. jonathan keith Silver badge

    Move along, nothing to see here.

    Let's see how they do with the Courier Surface Neo, whenever that's finally due.

  8. iron Silver badge

    Snapdragon 855 is not a deal breaker for me, no 5G is actually a bonus as far as I'm concerned but US exclusive... that is a deal breaker. :(

  9. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    Meh.

    Just, meh.

  10. chivo243 Silver badge
    Pint

    I would have never thought two screens on a mob would be great

    Until I was in a situation recently, where two separate screens would have been a life saver. While traveling on foot in unfamiliar cities, I found myself opening and minimizing apps way too much, when seeing two side by side would have been great. Realtime map open on one side, and email, web browser etc open on the other.

    1. DS999

      Re: I would have never thought two screens on a mob would be great

      That's nothing a UI enhancement couldn't solve. Provide a PiP mode where you have a little window in the top with the app you aren't currently using and the whole rest of the screen for the app you are. Tap the little window and they reverse. Tap/drag the little window to move it to another corner of the screen if the one it defaults to is a problem for the app you are using (i.e. covering the send button in email or whatever)

    2. Emir Al Weeq

      Re: I would have never thought two screens on a mob would be great

      Chivo243, you didn't say what OS you were using but I thought running two apps (one above the other) was common on Andriod now.

      My old phone (Samsung S7) used to allow multiple apps in windows that could be resized - something I miss, but not enough to make me pay S10 prices.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I would have never thought two screens on a mob would be great

      Google Maps has PiP mode when there is an active navigation route up. There is also splitscreen mode on Android.

      For me, the idea of a folderphone is to reduce the size and increase pocketability. Which isn't the case here so: Swipe Left for me.

  11. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Easy fix for that price

    Get Roberto Escobar to do the distribution (only one in four customers get a phone).

  12. DS999

    Suffers from the same problem as other folding phones

    A square is a crappy form factor for the unfolded device, it needs to be a trifold device so it can unfold into something like 16:9. Sounds like it is thin/light enough (4.8mm and 250g) that it could have been done. Make each screen a bit smaller and each section a bit thinner (you can spread the battery/electronics out a bit more) and you'd have something that's say 13mm thick and 325g when folded. Yes, still a bit thick and heavy compared to modern phones, but how many of them can unfold into a tablet?

    Yeah I know this is sold as having "two screens" so they can differentiate from last year's overhyped folding phone failures and not have to worry about creasing the screen. But we all know what people really want from a phone that 'folds' is for it to unfold into a bigger device that's as useful as if you were carrying one of those bigger devices around with you. The biggest use people make of tablets by far is watching video, so it has to have the proper aspect ratio if this type of product is ever to be successful.

    1. Jan 0 Silver badge

      Re: Suffers from the same problem as other folding phones

      What happened to flexible, rollable screens? Just pullout the support arms and unroll as much screen as you need.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Suffers from the same problem as other folding phones

        Currently, so far as I'm aware, only available as a large TV at very high price. In the video I saw it was installed at the foot of a bed and rose/rolled up out of the footboard. Another example was rolling down from the ceiling. Not sure if you could actually go out and buy one though.

  13. Jim-234

    If they release it without adware and bloat ware it would be worth the price

    The specification are quite lackluster for the price.

    However if they could see their way clear to ship it without being loaded up with a bunch of uninstallable adware and bloatware and junk from FB, then it might actually be well worth the cost.

    I've gotten a bit tired of paying for a Samsung flagship only to have it try to shove junk in my face anytime it can unless I get it all taken out after every major update.

  14. ivan5

    Seen better before

    Way back in 2010 I had a dual screen device that just worked - one screen was e-ink, the other a lcd. It ran an early version of android and just worked. Unfortunately it wasn't marked very well and ended up being bought out by a Russian company.

    My enTourage eDGe has been in use up to a year ago when the battery gave up the ghost, there was provision for a SIM card but I never used that.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More screen real estate?

    People can get more done if their workers are given plenty of display real estate to m̶u̶l̶t̶i̶t̶a̶s̶k̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ compensate for the obsession that today's tools have of wasting as much screen as they can. Eg Teams / Skype / Webex insistence on showing big rectangles with other participants' initials in.

    FIFY

    Yes I know they are for video but few people I work with do that and I don't care to see those that do.

  16. Jim84

    Blackberry Passport 2.0

    I bought a Blackberry passport for on the go productivity. I quickly realised that if you want lightweight on the go productivity, just buy an ultrabook instead.

  17. osmarks

    It's weird that $1400 is now *not* seen as a ridiculously high price for a phone.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Unhappy

      If a lie is repeated often enough....

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
      FAIL

      $1400 is OK if the phone can often replace a laptop while traveling. Like many recent one-trick phones, the Surface Duo won't. It has only one USB C port, dated storage capacity with no onboard expansion, a small battery, and a mono speaker. Those low-end specifications are burdened by shovelware from Google, multiple departments of Microsoft, HBO, Amazon, and AT&T. I imagine it's hot and dead before all the apps finish asking for signups and access to your personal data.

  18. xyz

    Ah...

    I still take my Nokia 925 out its drawer for an occasional fondle. Seems smaller these days though. Typed on my evil Chinese (you know the one) phone.

  19. DrXym Silver badge

    Looks pointless to me

    Yeah I can see the marginal benefit of having two screens, but the reality is that many companies have tried this exact same thing before and it never works properly. Yeah there is some marginal benefit to being able to run two apps side by side or make one app bigger. But very few apps would take advantage of that situation, e.g. dividing their content exactly over the two panels.

  20. 759b954e-617b-408b-a2b1-f5a42c3688d4

    If they made it bigger, and repaced one screen with a keyboard, I might be interes...

    Oh wait, I have one. It's a laptop.

    1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
      Pint

      I came to say something similar.

      Sort of reminds me of when the Netbooks first came out - ooo, would big great if it was a little bigger, had a faster chip, DVD drive and more storage space.

      You know, just like a laptop but much cheaper!

      We all know how that ended up. -------------------------->

  21. PM from Hell

    Windows Phone 7 Windows Mobile Device abandonment

    I can't see any enterprise who were burnt by the .last round of windows phones taking a punt on this.

    I personally had to 2 write off 250 handsets bought for windows mobile with the understanding that the model would be supported on Windows Mobile 10 when it was released.

    We did take part in the windows phone 10 insider ring and did extensive and successful testing of the device on windows phone 10 then the build we were using was pulled from the general release set. It turned out although the "handset" was supported you needed a variant which had ever been sold in the UK with more RAM.

    When we remonstrated with MS about this we were told that the devices were obsolete. Ironically because it had taken Microsoft so long to come up with a supportable version of windows phone 10.

    Having then been through the trials of trying to get MDM working when the Microsoft API's didn't and finally watching core applications disappear from the device I would never, ever recommend going for a Microsoft phone route ever again.

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