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Microsoft announces new Surface Duo phone (theverge.com)
225 points by aminecodes 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 178 comments

Between this and the Samsung Fold it feels like we have entered into the netbook (form factor) era* void. We're past peak smartphone development and are in this space where manufacturers are stumbling around for the next "it" device but creating nothing that is truly revolutionary. Yes, there are "some" use cases where a larger screen on my mobile device would be useful…. But by-and-large I still want it to fit in my pocket and be comfortable navigating single handedly . Adding dual screen & doubling the device thickness is not the solution I am looking for.

*Netbooks were low-powered mobile devices (basically mini laptops) that launched in 2007 and basically disappeared (as a viable market category) after the iPad and its kind were launched in 2010.

EDIT added "form factor" for clarification

Except the netbook form-factor has seen an unexpected revival in the past two years, with machines from GPD and One Netbook (and other Chinese manufacturers) showing up (although they're metal unibody machines, some of them ultrabook spec rather than netbook, and vastly more powerful and useful than their 2007-11 predecessors). E.g. One Netbook just announced the One Mix 3 Pro, with a quad-core Comet Lake i5, 16Gb RAM/512Gb SSD:


These aren't cheap (like the original netbooks), but they're pitched against the low end of the ultrabook market, for folks who need a better keyboard/typing experience than a Surface Go.

(Disclaimer: I own a One Mix 3S, predecessor to this new version and I rate it quite highly, except for support from the manufacturer which is patchy at best.)

> Netbooks were low-powered mobile devices (basically mini laptops) that launched in 2007 and basically disappeared (as a viable market category) after the iPad and its kind were launched in 2010.

Chromebooks are very much alive and well.

You're not wrong, by most definitions of netbook, but I think the parent commenter makes a very good point if you look at them in terms of their form factor. Netbooks of that era were these weird little machines with 8.9" screens and 70% scale keyboards. I remember carrying mine in a coat pocket. It was really exciting at the time to see Windows XP running on something like that. In the end, it was a bad compromise and those have disappeared. The netbooks of today are, for the most part, full size laptops.

IMO, the biggest issue with netbooks of that time is that they were so tragically underpowered! I wanted the form factor - but with enough CPU and RAM to actually use, well, anything, and a screen with a high enough resolution that I couldn't see the pixels!

Back then, all netbooks seemed focused on price alone - almost like they knew it was a fad, so made them cheap enough for an impulse buy.

The tech of the day just didn't stack up - but it does now. I wonder if we might see a netbook revival - small, cheap machines that are actually of doing things?

Kids can't even play Minecraft on our family chromebook without essentially running a different OS.

Chromebooks aren't a panacea.

Chromebooks are an US specific phenomenon, hardly seen anywhere else in the world.

In Denmark they seem to be quite popular and being rolled out in schools.

They're all over public schools where I live.

Those types of educational accounts have been home to Apple (and later Microsoft) in the recent past, all it takes is one school administrator to flip that district to a different solution.

Hence NeXT's focus on educational institutions prior to being bought by Apple.

That being?

They are almost nowhere to be seen across European consumer electronic shops.

I think the next computing platform gamble is AR.

Facebook is working on building out the tech via VR, but with an eye to AR and generally out in the open.

Apple is building out the underlying software support while working on some AR hardware in secret.

Microsoft has their enterprise hardware, but not sure what they're thinking about otherwise.

Using the phone as a computing device that powers a visual digital AR layer for the real world where you can interact with AR overlays either with thoughts (Neuralink?) or more likely basic gestures (like Oculus' camera tracking, or armbands) would be another revolutionary shift in platform UX and be the big shift away from phone screens.

I'm not sure how possible this hardware currently is or how soon this transition could happen, but people seem to be laying the ground work. Michael Abrash wrote an old blog posts about a couple of reasons why this is hard (primarily drawing black in AR), but he's been at Oculus a while now and I'd be curious how his thoughts have changed.

These foldable phones strike me as a dead end nobody wants.

"Microsoft has their enterprise hardware, but not sure what they're thinking about otherwise."

Do you consider the hololens exclusively enterprise?

Yeah - is that not the case?

There’s also magic leap, but I found their hardware pretty disappointing and I’d be surprised if they survive to actually be a serious player in AR platforms.

Only for now I believe. I think they're just pushing enterprise for the early editions. Glorified dev kits essentially.

This device’s whole point would be outside of the “we” point of view.

In general “we” don’t need a revolution of the current form factor. A sizeable portion of users have stopped upgrading and wait for their current phone to be dead, some are already clamoring for less, going back to iPhoneSE like phones.

I think the duo is not targeting the “we”, but way more specific user niches who have non generic goals and are not happy with even the bigger phones we have now. These people could be enough to float a product line, even if it doesn’t fish the other 90% of the users and their dogs.

I’d compare it to the Surface Studio, which was never expected to be a general public device as well.

OK, but what is that niche?

I'm not happy with today's massive phones, but that doesn't mean I want a massive phone that can fold in half!

I just want a non-slippy phone that fits in my hand and pocket, and has a high-res screen. Truely, I don't understand the trend for slippy phones that keep getting bigger and bigger :/

I would guess one niche is people that wanted the 7 inches tablets and ipad mini to succeed more. They opted for cellular models, and would have prefered to be able to message and take calls there, getting rid of their phone altogether (that’s one less device to care about).

Another niche is people who used their phone mostly as a notification device, but switched to the watch for that, and now are frustrated by the tininess of the phone as they use it more and more for “serious” business only.

I am not in any of these niches, but also feel that I am happy with a smaller phone only because I need to pocket it. If I was using a purse everywhere I’d want the biggest thing I can get away with.

>Between this and the Samsung Fold it feels like we have entered into the netbook era

Except these will be >$1000 netbooks.....

I think the future is less/no screen. Typing on these folding phones seems like a worse experience. Typing at all isn't really natural, and neither is staring at planar, glowing glass.

I think the future is conversational computing. I don't own an Alexa/HomePod/etc (yet... maybe some open source on prem thing at some point), but I think that's where the puck is moving. It's just that today their capabilities are somewhere around a rotary phone vs. an iPhone. Better than a telegraph (which I guess in this analogy is _typing_ your words into a document) but still very rudimentary. All it needs is time and effort.

Similar to HomePods, we have AirPods and their equivalents. The phone is just a conduit through which can pass the data necessary for the OS to talk with you, to do what you need.

Strongly disagree with this. As someone who does own a number of Google Home devices at home and uses Siri on my phone... voice is a terrible interface.

For one, there is zero discoverability. I can ask Google today's weather. I can ask tomorrow's weather. I cannot ask yesterday's weather. Leaving aside why that would be (I would find it useful to know that it's X degrees hotter/cooler than yesterday) there's no way for me to know that without asking. It's the audio equivalent of fumbling around on a keyboard in a pitch black room. Just imagine placing a food order. It's going to have to read a menu to you and you're going to have to remember it all. No amount of tech improvement is going to change that fundamental fact.

Secondly, you can't multi-task. Or have more than one person using it simultaneously. Right now my wife and I might be looking at our phones at the same time, perhaps looking stuff up, maybe tapping out an e-mail. We'd have to go to separate rooms to do that.

But if I want to know today's weather or play a song, it works fine. As long as it recognises my voice correctly and there isn't too much background noise.

To be fair, when I Google "yesterday's weather" in my desktop web browser I don't get a nice little Google info card. I do get some web results for sites that show historical weather, however.

We definitely agree that voice interfaces are very rudimentary today. I try to run lots of things through dictation first that normally I would type out with my thumbs on the smartphone or on a keyboard on my computer. Text messages, search terms, commit messages, Slack conversations. Still, it can't perform very basic tasks like changing or backspacing a word or phrase, either because it misheard it or because you want to change it. (And actually as I dictated this paragraph on my 2018 MacBook Pro, it typed out everything I said twice and still required typing interventions, and eventually I just fell back to typing everything.)

You've laid out some good criteria though. I wouldn't say voice interfaces have really "made it" until it gets to the point where you don't have to ask how to ask it to do something (discoverability). You just ask it to do something and it does it. Although that's just one of many criteria.

The food menu problem is interesting, but pretty much everything that prints out on a ticket in a kitchen is structured data–it should be able to be efficiently conversationalized (preference notwithstanding, of course). Certainly there are many ways you could talk to someone about a menu: what kinds of dishes are there? Appetizers, grilled entrees, pasta, salads, desserts. What kind of entrees? Vegetarian, pork, beef, seafood. OK, but what styles of cuisine? Jamaican, Italian, Szechuan. There's probably an analog to the 5 Why's for figuring out what someone wants to eat! Asking yesterday's weather, though, is a specific case that could probably be solved by an intern, provided that data is easy to find on the Internet (FWIW, I've searched for the very same thing many times and it's much harder to find vs forecasts).

I concede that there will always be a need for graphical interfaces. How do you "speak" a map, or a CAD model? I guess I was just thinking of things that can accomplished with a keyboard. You can speak anything you can type, even if it's as rudimentary as today, where you have to say "period newline newline" to end a sentence at the end of a paragraph while dictating.

I agree it might seem tough to multitask. But consider WiFi routers serving multiple computers, or hell, even CPUs serving different processes, "simultaneously." If voice recognition and NLP become sufficiently sophisticated I could foresee being able to isolate multiple overlapping voices in an audio sample. If not, consider that you could ask it to look something up, immediately followed by your wife dictating an email to send–or one of you could even interrupt the other–and it could be able to handle the context switching and queuing at speed.

And I understand there's a lot I don't know, and I do remain skeptical that this could ever be perfected. Would it really be able to dictate poetry? Would the forms I create or creatively destroy in free verse just totally confuse the voice interface? Would it be smart enough to side step the confusion via some pseudo-meta-cognitive process and ask me what the hell I'm doing?

> Certainly there are many ways you could talk to someone about a menu: what kinds of dishes are there? Appetizers, grilled entrees, pasta, salads, desserts. What kind of entrees? Vegetarian, pork, beef, seafood. OK, but what styles of cuisine? Jamaican, Italian, Szechuan. There's probably an analog to the 5 Why's for figuring out what someone wants to eat!

To me this is the core of why voice interfaces will always be inferior. In the time it would take that voice conversation to happen I would have been able to scan a menu a dozen times over. Our brains are incredibly adept at picking out visual details - identifying the headers that note each section of the menu, picking out key words that may interest us and so on. There is no technological improvement that will help a voice interface rival that.

Have you ever watched a person with vision challenges using VoiceOver with the speed cranked up? I bet they could absorb the info they need to know about a menu before the average reader could, even before any hierarchical organization is exposed to the text-to-speech process. The visual hierarchical and keyword navigation you describe is just what I'm talking about with a voice interface, too.

Just yesterday a colleague I was pairing with was VoiceOvering JSON packed with API keys and stack traces. I, conversely, have many times stood with the fridge door open trying to find something that was plainly front and center. Of course, the answer for many things may be a combination of both hearing and vision.

I also wonder if this easily navigable menu you are thinking of is already cognitively mapped in your mind, and you know what to look for. What if the menu is in a foreign or second language, that the voice assistant could translate for you? Or is a completely foreign-to-you cuisine, or just creatively organized in a way you aren't used to, like by seasonality, emotion or geography? I've sat and stared at some dense menus, that I've had to reread multiple times to remember just a subset of the items. In the end I asked the waiter something like in my example: "something with shrimp" or "what do you like?"

I'm not so sure about the things you say will never or always be, and I don't even consider myself an optimist. Finally, thanks for taking this ride with me, it's definitely made me consider more things!

Except when you can't reply to a message on your phone cause you don't want people around you to hear that.

Let's be real, "conversational computing" may work in movies, but in reality you don't want people in the office or on the street hearing your interactions with your phone.

My thoughts too - it works in the home and at a push I can see it working for certain jobs, but it absolutely seems unworkable in public places.

But then I think again and wonder if maybe this is one of these things that seems unthinkable now but in 10-20 years, everyone everywhere will be doing it completely naturally, it's become part of the background noise of life, and nobody will care enough to really listen to what you're telling your computer to search for / do.

Yes on a silent train it might be awkward - but on the street I can honestly see it being fine, especially if attitudes and culture changes a bit as it's wont to do with new technology usage (see bluetooth headsets for a past example of this).

What are you going to watch your porn on without a screen?

Also, talking to any of those assistants is literally the worst imaginable mode of interaction with a computer, period. Touchscreens in cars are in close second place.

Headphones. Audio is a major part of porn, and audio porn is much healthier at night than video porn, because light makes you stay awake longer.

I comute every day early in the morning by train. I would shoot the ones who start interacting with their devices per voice.

> around for the next "it" device but creating nothing that is truly revolutionary.

I hate people who talk like this, as if there is something magical that people should be working on.

Hate is a strong word.

But I agree that innovation is often incremental efforts of exploration and convergence, like how we got to where we are in VR today. Magical phenomenal change like iPhone is rather exceptional.

It shouldn't double the device thickness. You can have normal cellphone thickness on one side and just enough for a display on the other.

I suspect the main reason this type of device tends to be more symmetrical in thickness is to carry an additional battery, needed to power the second display without shortening the total battery life of the device.

> Yes, there are "some" use cases where a larger screen on my mobile device would be useful…. But by-and-large I still want it to fit in my pocket and be comfortable navigating single handedly . Adding dual screen & doubling the device thickness is not the solution I am looking for.

I'm still waiting for a phone on which I can comfortably edit, build, and deploy code.

In developing countries, phone is the only computing device most people have and is the primary consumption device taking over TV. So a bigger screen will definitely be valued.

IMHO, the hinged - but separate - displays are a much better idea than the Samsung foldable display. At least for now.

I don't think the reliability of a truly foldable display (e.g. Samsung's Galaxy Fold) will be very good until another couple versions of generational improvements.

+1. IMO the move is to focus on this type of devices and then move to foldable screens if/when both the technology matures, and there is solid demand for this form factor.

The foldable display seems cool, but also seems to be, IMO, an expensive solution looking for something we don't know to be a problem yet. The problem is having no screen at the hinge. How big is this problem though? In theory it's nice but people don't even have foldable devices in these form factors yet. For all we know, most people might not mind the dual-screen approach, just like a lot of people have not minded the notch or other shortcomings of previous and current devices.

Maybe they should go with two glass panels and the foldable display over the hinge. If you have a setting to disable the delicate hinge display when it inevitably breaks it gracefully downgrades to this Duo experience.

Personally I don't see the attractive in dual screen devices unless we reach Westworld-like devices that are super thin and can go from phone to large tablet that can potentially replace a laptop.

Otherwise it's just a thick phone that converts to 2 phones...

In case anyone hasn't seen Westworld: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3dD7jOLaes

I'm excited for two reasons.

I find the ability to completely "close" my phone really appealing. It feels easier to ignore it, and the screens feel more protected to me.

I can also only describe the second benefit as "its like two monitors". I can watch TV on one and respond to messages/browse on another. I use a Note8+ already, so big screens for watching crap are already my preference though.

As long as there is enough clearance between the two screens to add a temper glass screen protector to each.

Every phone I've had with a case, grit collects betweeen the case and the back of the phone and scratches the phone up. I can imagine the same thing happening between the two screens if folded in my pocket.

Eh I'm not too interested in multitasking on my phone. Even on my 12.9 iPad Pro multitasking is mediocre. If I want to be productive I simply go to a laptop or desktop.

Clamshell phones let you close your phone completely, and have been around for a long time. Actually, are they still a thing?

So Clamshell Android phones are a thing. The Freetel Mushashi is a T9-style Android phone with dual touch screens on either side.

Samsung has the Android W series phones which have a similar format.

Regarding the sibling comment, after the Droid 4 and the Motorola Photon Q, there has been a drought of physical keyboard landscape slider phones. Portrait sliders have been available for the Blackberry Priv and KeyOne/Key2, but aside from the soon-to-be-released Fxtec Pro1, not much landscape slider android phone action is going on.

last mainstream device i can recall in this form factor was the droid 2? I think it's been a while since a major one was released, but I could be wrong.

Only problem is I like messaging in portrait mode, but watching things in landscape. Kind of kills the benefit for me.

Agree. I love the design behind the Westworld folding tablets. I don't see myself jumping aboard the train until we get at least a little bit closer to that form factor.

There's an interesting subtlety in Westworld devices that I didn't notice until now, though - they're insanely durable. Dust, blood, hard impacts, slamming the device closed, etc don't seem to damage or impede them at all which simply wouldn't be true of real devices. I think foldable devices are inherently more fragile than smartphones which are already too fragile IMO and thus they'll never work, but few people seem to care about that right now.

Definitely. In order for WW style tablets, I think the biggest hurdles would be material science.

It's also sci-fi and the rule of cool. If someone wanted to parody WW, then a fun scene would be the tech support at HQ. Imagine seeing main characters treating them as disposable and regularly having to pick up new ones.

Thin-film electronics would probably be the starting point. As far as I can tell, that industry is very concentrated on display, solar and "gimmick" electronics (think electronic tamper seals or marketing strategies.)

To make this device, you'd need: - A battery breakthrough (hard) - Flexible OLED and peripherals (easier) - Flexible chips (hard but optional) - High power efficiency or microfluidic cooling (hard depending on thickness.)

Depending on where you let the device be folded, if you had a small enough SoC, you could protect it from bending and hide it in the panel sections that don't have a seam. The trickier bit is raw power and thermals, which will be the bottleneck for the next few years.

I'm going to pick one up regardless, but if they can bring Windows 10 X to this device, and provide a docking experience that expands to approximate a full PC, the result would be fantastic.

This is still my holy grail of computing device. I want a portable device (phone) that gives me a phone style interface when portable, but when docked, a desktop-like experience. Yes, there have been efforts, but I want this to be mainstream and well thought out.

Agree! Will somebody please make this!

I want to simply have a keyboard and screen that "looks like a laptop" but the brains is actually in the phone in my pocket!

And then when I have a proper dock, I just get a larger monitor(s) and larger desktop keyboard.

But the brains are still in the phone!

The key benefit (of the dumb laptop, especially) is I still want a laptop on the go, but..

1. Why manage data flow across two separate devices. My phone becomes truth, always.

2. My phone already has always-on data. Why worry about data for two devices. (To 4/5-g subscriptions, etc.) Searching for wi-fi.

3. Better power consumption for my "dumb laptop" device. (Less processing power in the laptop, hopefully space for a bigger battery)

I would buy this in a heartbeat!

I have a NexDock that I think was a kickstarter a few years ago that is a dumb laptop (hdmi in, usb for charging, bluetooth keyboard and mouse) that could be plugged into a phone. Used it for Raspberry Pis and Intel Compute sticks for a while.

I am hoping I can do this with the librem5 and a dock.

Samsung DeX is currently the most popular (only?) implementation of that, and it's decent in my opinion -- especially if what you really need is a desktop-sized browser.


It looks nice in theory. I’d like to see it also support some version of win10. I might get one regardless, but if it ran win10, it’d be a slam dunk.

Google introduced project Treble in Android O and P to allow Android to work against a HAL to basically decouple the underlying Linux Kernel and drivers from the over arching Android Framework.

There was speculation that this would enable Google to swap out the Linux Kernel for Fuschia when it becomes available.

The Windows NT Kernel has had a HAL and the ability to do this since it's inception in the 90s. Microsoft has been toying around with WSL on the desktop, what are the chances that they just beat Google to the punch and are running Android on the Windows Kernel?

How crazy would it be if WSL was just a cover for getting Android running ontop the Windows Kernel?

IIRC WSL1 used a kernel compatibility layer, WSL2 uses a virtual machine [with the albeit minimal but very real overhead] so I find difficult to imagine they running android on top of NT [whatever they're calling the kernel nowadays]

> [whatever they're calling the kernel nowadays]

I think they renamed the NT Kernel to Windows Kernel to simplify things but in usual Microsoft fashion it just complicates comparing or discussing Today with Yesterday.

Best mad theory I've seen in a while.

It's not a theory, it is well known fact that first versions of WSL were developed for running Android apps on Windows RT

Is there a write up somewhere on that? I'd love to read about it.

They already said it runs on Android, whith what looks like a heavy Microsoft like skin on top.

Indeed they did, but this is a device still in development, to be released late 2020. I would not be surprised if the Windows 10 X team is working to make it at least possible to run 10 X on the smaller device. I'd much prefer 10 X with an Android subsystem. But like I said, I'll pick one up regardless.

I'm sure it could run 10 X easily enough, the problem is the same problem that killed the Windows Phone ecosystem. No one's developing mobile/touch apps for anything other than Android and iOS. Windows has been fully touch enabled for years now but still there are almost no apps that take advantage of that, there isn't even a decent kindle app in the microsoft store. I wish this wasn't true but the truth is mobile belongs to Apple and Google and tablets belong to Apple.

Which is why I'd like an Android subsystem. I want the basic UI experience and default apps to be Windows 10 X. For 90% of my phone usage, I'm using the stock apps (launcher, email, browser, calendar, etc.), and I'd prefer that to be the 10 X experience rather than Android. I want Android to feel like an app safety net, not the primary experience.

But like I said before, even without that, it's still the right device for me.

Ah yes I missed the bit where you mentioned the Android subsystem.

Yeah, but that raises the question as to what's the upside for Microsoft for building the Duo? Why divert expensive engineering resources to become just another niche Android phone vendor and help shovel money into Google's pockets on top of that?

The only thing they said is that they "are building upon Android". I think it could both means that they are using Android as an OS or that they built some kind of WSL-like subsystem. The latter scenario is more interesting because it would open up the possibility to run UWP apps that can also run on Windows 10 X, both leveraging the two screens.

Good luck. It's not shipping until "Holiday 2020"... if ever.

Announcing products like this should be reported on as an embarrassment for the companies that do it.

I guess Microsoft just wants to give developers enough time to adapt their applications to this new platform.

Except I'd have no idea how much time I had. When is "holidays"?

I miss Windows Phone everyday.

The best designed UI imo, and a great alternative to Ios and android.

I really liked the Windows Phone UI too - but christ it was buggy! In true old-school Windows fashion, it frequently crashed and required a reboot.

When Windows Phone died and I switched to Android, the UI didn't feel as intuitive as the Windows one did. And of course it doesn't help that Google change the UI, in particular the settings, all.the.time.

I wasn't a fan of the UI, but I can still appreciate the speed and fluidity of the phones I saw my friends using. We certainly need more than just iOS and Android in the market. But, I guess I'm wrong as the market spoke...

It wasn't even "the market" that spoke so much as US telecom companies. ("Vote with your wallet just means the rich and the mega-corporations have more votes.") Windows Phone had a good enough market share in Europe and Asia to remain a viable and competitive third place contender for a long time. It was the US where Windows Phone got locked out of the market duopoly by bad deals with AT&T and Verizon, and indications existed that all of the US telecoms were much happier with a duopoly than training/sales/marketing anything beyond that (whether or not that was an anti-competitive trust is left for your own imagination, it's not like the US has strong anti-trust teeth right now).

What you are describing is the usual problem of establishing a two sided market. You need users to make app developers care. You need apps to get users in the first place. From what I remember, MS already had to build some apps themselves / offer significant financial incentives [0]. This seemed hardly sustainable and thus the death of the product was, while disappointing, not a surprise.

So yeah, you don't need a conspiracy to explain this failure.

[0] https://www.pcworld.com/article/2031384/microsoft-stokes-win...

You can't get users for a product no one can buy. Calling it a conspiracy was largely a gag, but if anything it was a conspiracy of dunces.

Verizon refusing to sell and refusing to allow on their network the Lumia 950 because of a hissy fit that they didn't like how the previous flagship performed and that Microsoft got an almost favorable AT&T deal for the 950 was dumb on several levels.

AT&T getting bored with their 950 deal and then refusing to advertise/market/sell the phone, was certainly a death nail, partly because it was so much easier and cheaper to just micro-manage the Android platform.

It might not have killed the platform in the US if there were more than one phone manufacturer in Windows Phone at that point in time.

(That calls into question if the Nokia buy out was the right move. Which with Nokia last one standing already, it was probably the only move, but the platform had enough market share before Nokia was at risk of tanking that had a couple Android manufacturers gotten fed up with Google at the time things could have gone differently. Though admittedly, armchair quarterbacking is easier with hindsight.)

The app situation was always something that could have been addressed if people were (capable of) buying the platform. The lack of OEM manufacturers and the lack of support/interest from the carriers certainly mattered more than apps at crashing marketshare of the platform below the critical threshold for active application development.

I don't think people were ever going to buy in to the platform. I liked Windows Phone, but it had basically no substantial feature that made people think "wow, it's worth it to drop Android and iOS for /this/."

You got Android if you overwhelmingly wanted the customization. You got an iPhone if you overwhelmingly wanted something that was smooth and worked well. I tried WP for a while and I missed nothing major by switching away.

I think the animations are what I miss the most, especially the WP7 animations. None of the others look remotely as nice.

I like how on the Duo and larger Neo Microsoft just embraced the fact that foldable OLED isn't ready for prime time yet and instead tried to engineer the seam with as much aesthetic and engineering quality possible.

It is definitely the right approach to the question "how do you engineer a folding display?".

The bigger question is "what do you need a folding display for?"...

I think this is the wrong approach to think about. Nobody needs a folding display.

What people need are actually two contradictory (until now) goals: compactness and large screen size. Folding is one solution to solve this contradiction.

Agreed. Which is why most people thought phones would have projection displays and/or keyboards a decade ago... I wonder where that all went?

It took almost 30 years since the kernel was released, but Microsoft is officially releasing something with a Linux based operating system. Pretty wild to think about.

They've had Linux Azure offerings for quite a few years, and famously contributed a fair bit of code to the Linux kernel to make some of that possible.

They also released those Nokia branded Android devices.

It is not like MS has been doing consumer hardware releases for that long or anything!

It'll be interesting to see the support, IMHO one thing that keeps people (software devs and consumers) from buying into a new Android OEM that is selling an "Ecosystem" (e.g. Samsung Note) is the fear of a product line being dropped.

It almost feels like Microsoft is conceding the server market, recognising that the ride of cloud computing has been a real boon for Linux - they're putting all the tools in their desktop product to make sure engineers can work easily with Linux, without actually needing Linux to do it.

it's interesting how in the last few years the Microsoft and Linux/Android ecosystems seem to developer side-by-side.

Personally I've replaced my last macbook with the surface and my iphone with an android phone, use mostly linux or windows with WSL these days and I see less and less apple products in particular among developers where the windows/linux combo seems to become more prevalent, at least anecdotally.

From their original stance against FOSS, yes pretty wild.

From UNIX point of view, not so much, given that they were one of the first licensees for PC hardware with Xenix.

WSL2 is already shipping in Beta form in Windows Insider builds and includes a full Linux kernel.

There’s the SONIC network stuff too. Though that’s not a consumer product.

"Partnering with Google" - Be very interesting to see what that partnership entails.

They're trying to head off another YouTube on WindowsPhone fight.

It seems it can run Android apps.

It seems it runs on android (with a windows theme).

True, I wrote that comment as I was watching the announcement live stream. It's still pretty much a prototype at this point but I hope they don't mess up that windows theme a lot.

I mean, Microsoft has always had a vested interest in Android's success, given that they are paid for every Android device sold because of software patents.

I remember reading something like:

Exec1: does it connect to Exchange?

Exec2: no.

Exec1: nixed!

Exec2 should have said: it will in the future!

I was excited for moment thinking they were bringing back the Windows Phone OS as well, bummer...

I'm so glad Microsoft is trying again in the Phone space. I wish Amazon would try again, too. It's nice to have choices.

No. Microsoft is much better at handling an ecosystem than Amazon. As far as I can tell, MS is using standard Android with Google Play Services(?) Amazon was trying to create its own ecosystem.

Amazon has a nice suite of services. A phone that has Music, Books, Shopping, Cloud Storage for Photos, and a few key apps (Uber, Lyft, popular games) but somewhat constrained otherwise, would be great for Seniors or people who don't need a high-performance general-purpose computer in their pocket.

> would be great for Seniors

How do seniors learn to use devices?

Mostly from peers or mostly from children? If from peers, how do they seed the ability?

I can't see how you could get seniors to start to use a "dumbphone" specific to them, unless the UI was spectacularly easy to use.

Perhaps, but I believe that not being able to install one or two crucial apps (e.g. banking) would be a deal-breaker for a good portion of those people.

How would that be any different than what they tried with the Fire Phone? You can already buy cheap Android phones that can do all of those things using either Google’s services or Amazon services

Agreed. Amazon is really experimenting recently with new form factors. It could be really exciting if there was a non-flagship phone from them in the future. What they should double down on is also making the Alexa experience the best.

Agreed. There is too little competition in this space. Having more choice would mean there wouldn't be the whole Google Services / Huawei fiasco. Apple and Google are effectively blocking competition in the marketplace.

It's an Android, so no new choice here, sadly. Google may even be insisting on Google Search as default, given the search bar's prominent visibility in Microsoft's promo material with the Google Search logo.

According to a consent decree with the EU, they can’t insist on it there. They could in the US I guess.

Video of announcement.


The bigger dual screen device is the Surface Neo.

Correction: The bigger device is Surface Neo (running Windows 10 X), the smaller device is Surface Duo (running Android).

Corrected, thx.

Given how badly they flubbed their entries into smartphones, I'm kind of glad they are trying again in this new form-factor. Given that it's relying on Android, it should have more staying power than before (and an app store that isn't awful).

Given it's relying on Android now and doesn't seem to have (based on this announcement) any compelling reason to exist long term in the ugly, over-crowded OEM market of Android marketing, it's a gimmick and shouldn't have any staying power at all.

It's odd that they would announce it's powered by a Snapdragon 855--a chip which is already a year old, and will be two years old by the time this device actually launches. Hopefully they'll upgrade that before launch.

A high-end SoC from 1 year or 2 years ago is hardly the constraint on modern devices.

I doubt the average person can even tell the difference from a 660, to a 835, or an 855, given all the rest of the components (mainly storage) are the same.

1. Is Windows Mobile Dead?

2. Does anyone remember the name of a similar Microsoft notebook that was teased 5-10 years ago? It was a foldable notebook and notetaking device kind of like Remarkable. I wonder if this is the spiritual child of that.

As for 2, you're thinking of the Courier concept, which got killed in favor of Windows 8: https://www.cnet.com/news/the-inside-story-of-how-microsoft-...

Re: 1: The last official OS builds for Windows Phone expire from security support next month (November 2019). Microsoft has been telling owners to move to iOS or (especially) Android for months now. (It's why I've got an iPhone again in my pocket now after years of Windows Phones. Sigh.)

1. Yes.

2. You're probably thinking about the Courier. You'll see more about that in the thread about Surface Neo, which is the modern take on Courier.

I like the idea of dual screen on the phone, its quite natural to browse two related pages at the same time and will improve that kind of experience. Will it have pen support?

However i'm very dubious of what the dual screen experience will be like bolted on top of Windows (NEO) and Android (DUO).

Somehow in my humble opinion Apple have been able to run rings around Google and Microsoft when it come's to pure UX in mobile tech and given the past history i fully expect that true in the future.

This is where i expect DUO will stumble, in the same way that Samsung fails with its extensions and bolt on's.

All this time my old Nintendo DS Lite had been gathering dust in the drawer because I thought it was strictly for games; now I realize its true calling is to be a phone!

Ah, looks like Microsoft finally got around to producing some more gimmicks.

The catastrophe that is the Samsung folding phone didn’t send a strong enough message to the industry I guess.

The MS device is a foldable phone with two screens, not a foldable screen. Samsung's (initial?) failure is irrelevant here.

It won't sell. It's a gimmick.

No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.

Remember your comment 5 years from now. There is a reason that most manufacturers are working on dual/folding screens. It is natural to try to get the phone and tablet market at once. I think it's great and hope they have judged their technology correctly, because if done well it is the future.

How is this a reply to what I wrote?

I really hope that we see a single-screen Surface phone in the future.

IMO, Microsoft have done a fantastic job with the Surface Book. If they could replicate that high-end build quality while providing a solid feature set and a clean Android build, I can't see it not selling well. Throw a headphone jack in, and I'd wait in line for it!

The dual screen is interesting, but I don't see its use just yet.

I see a lot of value with this phone prototype over the laptop version.

It gives a better typing experience than a phone currently does & offers unique controls for apps on the 2nd screen.

Whereas with the laptop version I assume people will be missing their keyboard typing experience or complaining about having to carry around a bluetooth keyboard. I still hope they improve their concept of docking an Android phone & using it as a laptop replacement with a keyboard, mouse & monitor.

Hopefully it makes people watch videos in landscape again & quit recording in portrait mode. That alone would be a win!

- Edit - I just read a better article explaining their keyboard concept for the laptop version. That seems like a slightly better experience than I was imagining. Hopefully it's harder to lose than their pen.

Speaking of the Surface Book, my aging MacBook needs replacing, and I was interested in seeing a Surface Book 3 release as an alternative. Sad it didn't materialise.

The Surface Laptop 3 looks very compelling though, especially with the Ryzen option.

The Surface Laptop unfortunately doesn't work as tablet.

I'm very "disappointented" by the event, as it seems that the Surface Book series is dead.

If this is the case, I guess that the reasoning has been that who want a powerful machine just buy a regular laptop.

It's a shame for those who use the SB both as tablet and dev machine (which is the intended audience). At this point, it's not sure how the SPX will be usable as dev machine (e.g. I guess it will have relatively little memory). The vanilla SP is an alternative, but 12.3" is small for me (and can't imagine for those who own a 15" SB).

I'm interested in how many people actually use their Surface Book as a tablet.

I know a load of people with the standard Surface that use it like a tablet, but very few people that regularly use their Surface Book's detachable tablet functionality. I can probably count the number of times I've ever wanted to take the laptop apart on one hand.

I use it a lot! The SB tablet is the state of the art (sadly, because evidently there have been no advancements). Nothing is so light: even the Surface Pro X is inferior (13.5"/730g vs. 13"/770g). This comes from the interesting design choice of stripping as much as possible from the tablet itself (the Surface Pro instead, is intended to be more functional, when in tablet form, since it's coupled with lightweight bases).

In the past, I used it primarily to read electronic versions of several paper magazines; this format is (IMHO) best read on a large screen - the sweet spot is around 14, so 13.5 is the closest (I reckon the 15" is too big; the SB laptop form factor has a bulky design).

In the present, I use it for studying (textbooks, mostly) - for textbooks, even 12.x" is fine, so even a Surface Pro would do.

Having said that, I like it as a tablet so much that I've pretty much ditched the base and bought another laptop for development. The SB laptop form factor just sucks (IMHO), as it's very bulky, and Microsoft has an insane pricing strategy, that makes it unjustifiably expensive for developers looking for a serious dev machine. Nowadays it's more competitive due to being old, but the 16 GB models have never been competitive, both in price and form factor, to competitors like the Dell XPS.

Of course, I don't imply that many people use it this way because I do, so I really don't know the general use cases :-)

Why would they make a single-screen phone for Android when the market is already saturated with them? (It's silly enough for them to make a dual screen phone for Android when all the existing OEMs are already trying to hype future foldables or multi-screen beasts.)

I wouldn't call the high-end Android market saturated. There are a number of players, but it's a market of compromises. If you want a stock Android experience, you go away from Samsung. If you want a headphone jack, you go away from Google and OnePlus, etc.

The Surface range is good because it packs so much functionality into a nicely designed package. The same design principles, with a full feature set, would sell like wild-fire, and would put a lot of other phone manufacturers on notice.

The high-end Android market is about as saturated as it can get, because multiple generations of hardware sales keep showing new high-end options dropping out because high-end users (mostly) just want iOS and buy iPhones.

Most high-end phones for Android don't sell like wild fire. AT&T and Verizon stores (among others) are pretty clear that Android is "cheap" and the iPhone is luxury/high-end.

I don't think Microsoft has an answer for that existing market dynamic here for Android phones. There doesn't seem to be enough of a value proposition that Microsoft might have anymore luck as Android device competing against the iPhone.

Another android phone.

These are all just wrappers around the latest qualcomm snapdragon with whatever twist the hardware manufacture wants to add. Basic functionality in all of them will be badly broken and there's more or less nothing you can do to fix it.

At least the iphone ships with an ssh client and scripting environment now. (not that I'm an iphone fan, it has it's own problems.)

> Basic functionality in all of them will be badly broken and there's more or less nothing you can do to fix it.

I disagree.

The performance and battery life differences between different phones running the same chipset is insane.

Read through https://www.anandtech.com/show/14716/the-black-shark-2-revie...

For some benchmarks, the top phones are 50% faster! Storage benchmarks (not shown in that particular review) can be even more dramatic. Battery life differences can be huge (multiple hours) at the same capacity.

Each manufacturer customizes the heck out of the kernel, and also attached firmware. LTE speeds can vary dramatically with "the same antennas". Same for WiFi speeds.

The current Android phone I am using works great. It is surprisingly fluid and rather nice to use, though I'd argue Windows Phone 7 was still nicer (or at least more fun) to use, that ship has long since sailed.

> At least the iphone ships with an ssh client

I use the Termux app to SSH on my Android phone all the time.

Not buying unless it runs [fixed and improved] Windows 10 mobile. I'm still dreaming of a Lumia 950 XL with a good app store...

Amen to this; I want another Windows Phone. If I'd wanted an Android phone, there are plenty of options already.

Microsoft would've done better by making a x86 Surface Go running full-sized Windows that happened to make phone calls. There were a few models of Android tablets that could make phone calls, so it's not as if it were a outrageous idea.

Then you're not buying. "It runs Android and will release holiday 2020" Literally the first line in the article.

Sure. Just expressing opinion.

IMO it was a mistake to give up on the Windows 10 mobile OS but it's also true that MS has made too many mistakes for it to ever take off at the point where Android and iOS have been developed for at least 7 years already.

It runs Android looks like with the Microsoft Launcher


Is the split screen device market a new upcoming segment or is it supposed to be replacing an existing one? I've never thought that I need two iPhones or two iPads connected to one another in a book like fashion like this. Who's the market demographic for this type of product?

The only way it makes sense to me is this:

Apple designed the iPhone to be a pocketable one-handed companion device to a real computer.

People started using them as their only computer. The changed the design parameters enough that it made sense to offer a less pocketable device with a much larger screen.

The thesis is: maybe that market can be segmented even further, by adding an even less pocketable segment with even more screen space.

I understand why they went with Android but I'm disappointed they didn't go with .NET. I've avoided iOS and Android development because I'm not a fan of those development environments. I would actually develop mobile apps if it was .NET.

Give Xamarin a go then. All the benefits of .NET on Mobile especially now that Forms is mature and .NET standard is more prevalent.

Ok this may be first time when Microsoft phone announcements generate more hype than iPhone

> The Surface Duo features two 5.6-inch displays that can rotate 360 degrees, allowing it to be fully unfolded as a miniature unfold to 8.3-inch tablet.

Unless I'm misunderstanding, it seems like you wouldn't ever need more than 270 degrees.

Seems like a nice way to protect the screen. I wonder how hard it would be to place a small tiny notification screen on the 2nd image. I guess that would make 3 screens then. I recall some similar prototypes that used a small e-ink screen for notifications & a clock.

Ah okay thanks. I didn't realize you could close it with the screen inside.

If this releases now, I will buy it instantly. That thing is going in my pocket.

I wonder if they will stop security patches after three years ?

I've been missing my Nexus 7 since it finished dying and have been wishing for a device with this form factor for years... but with a heavily-skinned custom android distro I'm not touching it with a ten-foot pole. MS isn't awful about release cadence and bugfix latency, certainly not as bad as cell network providers or traditional phone OEMs, but there's a reason I run stock android on Droid/Nexus/Pixel devices. Maybe if I can install a stock android ROM on the thing.

(Disclaimer: work at Google, totally unrelated product, not the opinion of my employer, etc.)

Microsoft has always been very good at making hardware! It would be interesting with oled/lcd on one side and eink on the other side.

This is often said by people who have never owned their hardware. I bought a Surface Book when it first came out. I disagree. It looks good on the photos if you've never used it, but it was kind of flimsy and buggy AF. I took it back for a refund 3 days after purchasing it. And it's a flagship device. I can only imagine what happens at the lower end of the product range.

> And it's a flagship device. I can only imagine what happens at the lower end of the product range.

I wouldn't really expect any difference. It's not like Apple's lower end products are buggier than their higher end ones.

I have used the first Surface Laptop since the release of it and I can say I have been very happy with it and never had any problem whatsoever.

this looks way better than the Samsung Fold. if you haven't yet, watch a durability video on the Fold. the display is plastic and will get scratched from basically anything (even your fingernail). Microsoft's version has glass. also nice that it's using Android.

but...how will I mount it in the car for GPS?

>but...how will I mount it in the car for GPS?

Just fold it?


I would get a bigger mount for the opened device though, maps are always nicer on bigger screens since you can see more.

What I don't understand is why the devices have huge screen bezels?

This thing looks like a 1983 Multi Screen Game & Watch.

It's ridiculous that there's a market for that monstrosity but I can't get a normal phone with a flagship SoC and a 16:10 display.


Why? If it’s running Android how is it any worse than the other folding screen Android phones?

It’s not like they’re trying their own OS again.

The opposite question applies: With so many other manufacturers building folding screen or multi-screen Android phones between now and Holiday 2020, how is Microsoft's any better?

It's not like there is a lack of competitors in the Android manufacturer game.

Maybe its not necessarily "dead on arrival", but at least from what has been announced so far, it doesn't yet sound competitive in what is already a terribly (and ugly) competitive hardware market. At least if Microsoft were trying their own OS again, they'd have a better statement of why they were building the hardware. Meanwhile, doesn't the market already have enough Android phones?

How many years after Apple's Knowledge Navigator?

32 years after Knowledge Navigator. 0 years after I first heard of it.

Ideas mean nothing if you don't make them real

I'm not sure if everyone forgot a day ago, but if Microsoft had just removed the offline account setting on Windows 10, what could be the likelihood that they could just enforce it in the Surface Line up, even including the Android products?

Nice looking Surface lineup and hardware nevertheless, but after Microsoft removing that offline setting, I think that was a big turn off and a no deal from me for now, unless they reverse that atrocious decision to using online accounts only.

They did not remove it.

You can still have offline accounts, but they do make it a real pain to figure out how to do it during Windows setup. I have to take PCs offline entirely to get the option now. While Microsoft is doing a lot of be more developer friendly (e.g., I love VS Code), Windows just gets more and more user hostile.

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