Microsoft hit all and sundry with a big surprised with the unexpected launch of the Surface Duo this week. The Android phone with two screens that fold around a hinge down the middle has been rumoured for years. To further the surprises, the phone is running Google’s Android operating system. This is coming 2 years after the company completely stepped out of the phone game. It’s designed to be the smaller sibling to the Surface Neo, a dual-screen device that was also unveiled yesterday running Windows 10X.
The Surface Duo has two 5.6-inch displays that fold out into an 8.3-inch overall screen, and it’s just 4.8mm thin. You can fold it fully over like many 2-in-1 laptops, thanks to a 360-degree hinge. Microsoft says it’s committed to dual-screen devices because they allow people to get more done on the go.
Microsoft announced a lot of new hardware this week, and it’s starting to feel like the company has a Surface device for nearly everyone. There’s now a Surface Duo phone that does slightly more than a regular smartphone, with an extra display thrown in, and a Surface Neo or Surface Pro if you want to go from a tablet-like device to a laptop. There are giant displays like the Surface Hub 2, or unique all-in-one PCs like the Surface Studio. Microsoft is even covering the bases of accessories with its Surface Headphones and Surface Earbuds.
Surface started out as a futuristic table before Microsoft launched its tablet and laptop hybrid, and it’s now so much more. It’s Microsoft trying to be innovative, chasing what it thinks will be the next major hardware form factor shift and trying to have a software and developer ecosystem in place when it goes mainstream.
Microsoft will now need to convince app developers and consumers that these dual-screen devices are truly the new device category we’ve all been waiting for. However things end up, Surface is no longer just a tablet that’s also a laptop. It’s Microsoft’s idea of the future.