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Lauren Goode on Microsoft’s Surface Duo and Neo

Lauren Goode, writing for Wired:

One gets the sense that the new Surface Neo tablet and Surface Duo, the un-phone, are now-or-never projects. These are throwbacks to the rumored Courier booklet and the more recent Andromeda fever dreams of Panos Panay come to life. But they’re also mini Surfaces designed to catapult Microsoft back into mobile. Even so, they’re not expected to ship until the holiday season of 2020. […]

In fact, the most recent version of the Duo doesn’t have a rear-facing camera. The way it’s currently designed, taking a picture would require the person using it to open the Duo, unlock the Duo, and flip its front-facing camera to the back of the device. I question this, more than once. Panay says it’s still early days, that the camera may change, that he’s nervous to reveal this so far in advance because it exposes the design to competitors.

“These are our efforts for the past two and a half years, so there’s a balance to the number of details I can give, even with regards to the camera,” he tells me. […]

Panay says he didn’t think about making a single-screened phone, and that this dual-screened phone is the antithesis of a single-screened phone in many ways, because of how much more productive you can be on it. It is so obvious that he loves this thing. That he’s been restraining himself from talking about it publicly for one, two, nearly three years now. That he feels more productive with it, though it remains to be seen whether there’s a market for dual-screened, cellular-equipped, Android devices running optimized Windows apps.

There’s certainly some original thinking here in both these devices. The various ways the hardware keyboard can attach to the larger one, the Neo, is pretty clever. But in very typical Microsoft fashion, the Neo and Duo are both just prototypes. They’re over a year from shipping according to the company, the software is so early days that the media weren’t allowed to play with them, there’s no word on pricing, and Panay admits they haven’t even decided fundamental aspects like how many cameras they’ll have.

And in the meantime, they’ve completely overshadowed the real products Microsoft actually announced yesterday.

Microsoft started yesterday’s event by banging the drum that they never have and never will compromise on the quality of their laptop keyboards — a clear and completely fair competitive dig at Apple. That’s the message they should have left the world with — that they, not Apple — now make the best laptop hardware in the world. Instead, they left everyone talking about two products that won’t be out for another year.

Thursday, 3 October 2019