Overpriced, underpowered, and over here
Sorry, thought we were back on Tesla for a moment there.
Microsoft will give the Surface Duo an international release, bringing the dual-screen phone to the UK, Canada, France, and Germany in "early 2021". The long-awaited Surface Duo hit (exclusively) US shelves in autumn this year, carving out an entirely new category within the relatively stagnant phone market. It isn't quite a …
Look, it will flop, at that price it has to be perfect and it's not. *But* the basic principle is right there.
People want a larger screen, and a smaller phone. The bezels got smaller and smaller, even wrapping around the body, but there is only so far you can go with that. 100% screen to phone size.
So now we're moving to foldables. But the screens are no longer rigid and tough, they're plasticy and flexible. Dirt gets under the screen. It's no longer sealed. So to get the foldable you make a few sacrifices.
But if you can get two screens to abut so they open to a single large screen, then you've done the same as a foldable but without the sacrifice of the flexing screen.
Microsoft have failed with this product: 1) the screen does not abut. 2) They cut the pixels out of the display where the hinge is, hiding the content as if obscured by the hinge, which just makes it worse. 3) The bezels top and bottom are huge! You're supposed to deliver the maximum screen for the minimum body size, and for this format it should be as close to 200% as possible! 4) The hinges are contrasting color and stand out a mile. 5) super roundy corners, yuck. 6) tent mode, trying to make a feature out of a shortcoming.
So they need to try again. The hinge needs to be behind the screens and the full surface needs to be screen, the hinges need to snap the two screens against each other.
Perfect that? Now move to 3x screens with one screen on the outside as the normal use display.
Product cycles are 1 year in the phone business and they do that by overlapping their teams. Next years phone is already in process when this year phone is launched. It's a tough market, you're either fully in it or your not in it. Microsoft should decide now that they will be another Oppo or Huawei and keep bashing out new phones until they get it right. One per year, all markets simultaneous launch. Till they get a winner.
> People who want a bigger screen on their phone don't want one that starts at or unfolds to a square. It also has to be seamless, separate screens with a bezel between is a non starter.
You may be correct. It just depends on whether some people will use the two screens for productivity tasks, or if they just want to watch videos.
There are *occasions* when having two apps side by side would be useful to me, but only occasions - not enough to warrant carrying around extra hardware all the time.
That sort of functionality might actually be useful and more durable that one of these daft folded screens. The only way I can see it working in this format is for the hinge to allow the halves to completely fold through 360 degrees like many of the 2-in-1 laptops. You could go a bit further and allow the screen to be on one half and a soft keyboard on the other. That is reminiscent of the old Nokia communicator.
At least with Android there are some Apps available.
I once did a proof of concept with a small sliding screen hand held from OQO that ran full XP. In the end it was connectivity that killed the use-case. We just could not get a reliable mobile connection using Edge, GPRS or whatever the very mobile earliest data protocol was.
At the time it was a pretty funky piece of hardware.
The Duo is not a new Microsoft concept. Microsoft Research developed a concept called the Courier (a Windows tablet with two 7" screens) in 2009 and even before that the Codex prototype (two OQO Windows tablets with 5" screens). The idea in Microsoft's mind has always centered on productivity in Office applications.
Even as an early adopter of Windows tablets (pre iOS or Android), I can only think of them as niche products.
They are definitely overpriced and underpowered but if you need the features they are offering you will accept that.
OTOH, I don't see normal people (or even the El Reg community) buying many.