What it is: Microsoft revealed dual-screen phones and tablets, but they won’t be available until next year.
At Microsoft’s recent event, they revealed updates to the Surface laptop and the Surface tablet. Yet the real news came when Microsoft introduced two dual-screen devices that won’t be available until next year.
Unlike Samsung’s foldable phone that has developed problems in the crease where the screen needs to bend, Microsoft opted for the much simpler hinge joining two screens together. Just like many people use dual monitors on computers to view more screen space, so will people appreciate the dual screens of the Surface Duo devices.
Microsoft has steadily improved their hardware. Now the big question remains about the software. The dual-screen phone relies on Android while the dual-screen tablet relies on Windows 10 X, which is a version of Windows optimized for dual screens. So while the hardware may look great, the big question is how will the software behave?
The dual-screen Android phone will likely allow Android apps to appear on each screen. This could let you view a game while browsing the Internet at the same time.
The dual-screen Windows 10 X tablet will need software optimized for dual screens. If it runs current Windows programs, they’ll likely just treat each screen as a single screen to allow ordinary Windows programs to run on them.
Getting an ordinary Windows program to run on a Surface Duo might be nice, but the real goal will be having having programs optimized for dual screens. The Surface Duo hardware will likely be great, but the software experience remains its weak link.
Without optimized software, the Surface Duo can’t take full advantage of its dual screen nature. If the Surface Duo can run ordinary Windows programs, that allows greater compatibility but at the expense of optimized software.
So the key to the Surface Duo’s success lies in software that takes full advantage of the dual screens. Imagine if Apple had released the iPad as nothing more than a touch screen version of macOS. That’s essentially what Microsoft did with Windows. Having touch gestures in Windows is nice, but it doesn’t create optimized apps. There’s a huge difference between iPad apps (optimized for touch screens) and Macintosh programs (optimized for a mouse and keyboard).
Today, most people use a Surface tablet as an ultraportable laptop rather than as a tablet. You can find plenty of Windows programs that run on desktop PCs, but how many Windows programs can you find designed solely for touch screen interaction?
The Surface Duo hardware looks great. It’s the software that may hold up acceptance. By next year, we’ll know the cost of the Surface Duo and how well the software runs on it. the Surface Duo is a remarkable device. Let’s just hope that the software fully supports the hardware’s capabilities.