Microsoft’s dual-screen Surface Duo, the company’s first Android device, will be launched in the US tomorrow. In a lengthy interview with The Verge, Panos Panay, surface inventor and Microsoft’s chief product officer, gave interesting details about the birth of Surface Duo and why Microsoft ultimately chose Android over the Windows-based operating system.
According to Panay, Microsoft began developing dual-screen mobile devices around 2014 after it eliminated the Surface Mini. At the time, Panos Panay was so obsessed with building a dual-screen device that he carried two hinged pieces of metal in his pocket for months. The executive did this to understand how durable such a device is and what is the ideal size for a dual-screen device and should be comfortably placed in a pocket.
After Microsoft eliminated the Surface Mini with Windows RT at the last minute, Panos Panay and his team began working on Androida, a dual-screen device with Windows that clearly looked very different from surface Duo. Panos Panay says they were different hardware at the time, not even similar.
When designing surface Duo, Microsoft eventually chose to distribute all internal components on either side of the device, but the company experimented with putting all the components on one side and another prototype wirelessly connecting the two displays. There is also some internal debate about LCD and OLED screens, which eventually win because they make devices thinner.
Unfortunately, making surface Duo only 4.8mm thin has led to compromises such as the lack of 5G connectivity, NFC and complex camera modules. After Microsoft canceled the Surface Mini because Windows RT lacked the apps consumers wanted on their tablets, choosing Android for Surface Duo was a tough choice, Panay explained. Bringing Android into it wasn’t the easiest conversation, you have to explain that, you have to get your team to join in and make people believe it. “
In the end, Microsoft did the right thing because it was able to work with Google to improve Android for dual-screen devices, and Microsoft didn’t create an Android fork like other handset makers used to. Although Microsoft’s Surface Duo will be launched in the U.S. tomorrow, we already know that a new version is in the pipeline. The Surface Neo, which features Windows 10X, is also in development, though it still has no release date. Panos Panay said: “I want to bring the right experience at the right time. We believe in this concept and form factor. It’s going to be a beautiful addition to Duo and Windows, and I’m excited that this is a product in my mind. “
The Surface Duo, which ships tomorrow, will come with two 5.6-inch screens that open to form a larger 8.1-inch screen with a fairly thick display border. In the future, Panai hinted that Microsoft might explore different sizes for its Surface Duo and Neo dual-screen devices. Panos Panay says the next natural evolution is different dual-screen sizes, with larger versions using Windows and smaller form factors using Android.