While Samsung and Huawei are off trying to make the world fall in love with foldable phones, Microsoft has a different approach that focuses on dual-screen devices instead, with the Surface Neo and Duo devices set to launch later this year. We already know that the smaller Duo device is aimed at the phone market and set to run on Android while the larger Neo will run on a specialised version of Windows 10X.
However, as Microsoft had experienced with their failed Windows Phone attempt, any successful transition to a new style of hardware will only be successful if their apps available to make use of it and the company has released details and tools to developers of how said apps are going to work.
According to Microsoft, apps by default will occupy a single screen, but that there will be a variety of app patterns in which they want developers to experiment with to find how the use of an additional screen could benefit the usage of their apps. Some of these include simply using both screens as an extended canvas, having two pages of a document shown at once, using the second display as a companion or dual view of something, or having a master part of the app on one display and details on the second.
Microsoft will be releasing an Android emulator for the Surface Duo this week to allow developers to test how their mobile apps will currently operate on the device with a Windows 10X emulator for the Surface Neo arriving next month. Microsoft plans to detail more of its dual-screen plans during a developer webcast that will also be taking place next month.
The purpose of these emulators is ultimately to allow developers to make updates to their apps as they desire and a great way to prepare app developers to be ready for the devices when they release. It’s not clear when Microsoft will ship actual devices to developers though because typically emulators do not always match the real thing and they will want to get their hands on these devices to understand the look and feel of them properly. Microsoft is also proposing some new web standards for dual-screen layouts, and “actively incubating new capabilities that enable web content to provide a great experience on dual-screen devices.”
Microsoft is putting in a lot of effort in what they believe will be the next big technology trend with other OEMs like Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Asus also reportedly working on dual-screen devices to be driven by Windows 10X. These things are likely to be expensive and out of my price bracket for a long time (if they ever get released here) but I see more potential to this than a foldable phone, at least for now.
Last Updated: January 24, 2020