Microsoft has thrown itself back into the smartphone market with a dual-screen handset called the Surface Duo.
Running Android, the device features two 5.6-inch touch screens which fold closed using a 360-degree hinge. The displays themselves do not fold, as is the case with the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and instead there is a small gap between them.
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Microsoft hasn't said much else about the Surface Duo just yet, but this shouldn't come as a surprise, as the phone won't actually go on sale until the fall of 2020.
Next year, in 2020, is also when Microsoft expects to ship another new device it previewed today. Called the Surface Neo, this is a dual-screen product too, but this time each screen measures nine inches and open up to create a 13-inch tablet. Using the same 360-degree hinge as the phone, the Surface Neo is a look at what Microsoft sees for the future of the laptop and tablet in one.
The folding Surface Neo and Duo will arrive in fall 2020Microsoft
As such, while the device can be folded flat and used as a large, iPad Pro-style tablet, the Surface Neo can also be folded into the shape of a laptop. Then, when a magnetic keyboard is moved from the back to the front, the operating system reconfigures to work as a laptop. In this configuration, the upper display acts as the touch screen of a laptop, while a portion of the lower display not covered by the magnetic keyboard can be used as a trackpad, or drawn on with Microsoft's Surface Pen stylus.
The magnetic keyboard can be positioned at the front or back of the lower display, putting the trackpad either at the front, where it would be on a normal laptop, or at the back and at the foot of the vertical display. Magnets are also used to secure the Surface Pen in place on the back of the device when not in use.
The Surface Neo runs a new version of Windows called 10X, which is designed to work on devices with two displays. Microsoft says its apps (including Office and the Edge web browser) work with Windows 10X. The company is showing off both the Surface Neo and Duo now, a year ahead of going on sale, so developers have time to make their apps works properly with the new form factor.
With the Surface Neo laptop, Microsoft showed how its applications can be spread across both screens at once, or how an app can be displayed on each screen. When in laptop mode with the keyboard attached, the trackpad area of the lower touch screen is called the 'Wunderbar', which is larger (and we hope more useful) than the narrow TouchBar of recent MacBook Pro laptops.
Speaking of Apple, Microsoft also used its hardware event today to show off a new range of Surface devices, meant to go up against its California competitor, due on sale in the coming weeks. This includes the new $999 Surface Laptop, which claims to be three times more powerful than the MacBook Air; the $749 Surface Pro 7, which now supports USB-C for the first time; and the new $999 Surface Pro X, a 13-inch tablet/laptop with the 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro firmly in its sights.
The new Surface Pro X starts at $999Microsoft
With MacBook customers losing faith in Apple, due to repeated failures of the company's shallow but brittle 'butterfly' keyboard, now is an ideal opportunity for Microsoft to steal some market share with its Surface products. As for Microsoft re-entering the smartphone market, we are excited to see how this turns out with buyers. The company failed last time with its own Lumia operating system and Nokia-made handsets, but with a new form factor and Android (via a partnership with Google), the situation looks altogether more promising.
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