Microsoft has unveiled two foldable devices, with dual touch screens, which it says will create a new category in mobile computing.
But, unlike attempts by its competitors, the company did not adopt a curvature screen – and did not decide to include a sophisticated camera system on products.
Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, gave the BBC a show of devices before the public was unveiled in New York on Wednesday.
“We want people to see the direction we are taking with productivity,” he said, adding that products would be released within a year.
“This is the oldest we’ve ever shown [a prototype] for the surface. We’re going to take out the developer units very soon.”
It is not surprising that Microsoft avoids trying to integrate an all-in-one folding screen, despite the fact that products using technology have already been sold, an industry observer said.
“Given the problems Samsung faced with the initial release of Galaxy Fold and the broader challenges around the fragility of flexible displays, it makes sense for device manufacturers to try alternative designs,” commented Ben Wood of CCS Insight Consulting.
As part of Wednesday’s launch, Microsoft has also announced several updates to the Surface laptop suite, which are scheduled for release later this year, and are open to pre-orders today.
Surface Neo consists of two screens that open on a 13-inch screen with a split in the middle, running Windows 10x, a different kind of operating system designed to run on dual-screen devices.
Surface Duo – a smartphone – opens to the 8.3-inch clock, with a split, and runs the Android mobile operating system. In the practical training of a BBC device with the device, you experience several glitches – including unresponsive touch screen, and sudden playback. Mr. Panay stressed that the devices are still in the early stages of development.
Mr. Panay did not say how much these devices would cost, nor would he be attracted to whether his engineers had studied a flexible split-screen display. Instead, he said he would prefer products to include a hinge design that could bend in both directions.
“Overload is much less,” Mr Panay told the BBC. “I keep in the context in a web browser on the one hand, and I look at my mail on the other. Or, I have a calendar on the one hand, and I have my mail on the other side.
“It’s designed in a way that improves and feels good about being a producer.”
Analyst Jeff Blaber said it would take some time to clarify whether the devices would be of interest to consumers.
“With Surface Neo and Duo, Microsoft is taking a courageous step towards a very new category,” he said.
“Duo is a bold new class of device and will take some time to build developer and carrier support. This is the beginning of a journey for Microsoft and expectations should be determined accordingly.”
Benedict Evans, of the Andersen Horowitz capital project, was more skeptical.
“Every year someone makes a phone with these two phones in the middle,” Tweet said.
“The problem has always been that first, the phone was twice the size and weight, and secondly, no developer disturbed its support because it represented a very small percentage of the base.
“Microsoft now has one …”
Surface Neo can be positioned as a typical laptop, with an additional keyboard on the bottom screen. In this configuration, the remaining part of the screen acts as a keyboard accessory, similar to Apple’s Touch Bar – but bigger than it.
The smaller device, Surface Duo, will be seen as a competitor to Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. Unlike Microsoft’s effort, Samsung was able to create a curvature screen made of plastic instead of glass. However, the product was delayed after reports of maximum unreliability. Despite the addition of enhancements, the company still recommends a “light touch” when using a $ 2,000 device.
Samsung features six cameras, including telephoto and wide-angle lens. However, Surface Neo and Duo have only one front camera, which Microsoft was not ready to share yet.
This is not Microsoft’s first attempt at a “manual” computer. In 2009, details leaked about a dual-screen product called Courier – but it was suspended less than a year later. Other projects, such as the Codex Alimentarius, are not yet in the research phase.
Since then, however, Microsoft has enjoyed great hardware success. The Surface line was first launched in 2012 for a mixed reaction, but in time became a major revenue source for the company. In the last fiscal year (ending June 2019), Surface Group accounted for $ 5.7 billion of Microsoft’s total revenue, up 40% from the previous year.
Wipe the ear
The company also followed Amazon and Apple in launching a wireless in-ear headset, called Surface Earbuds.
Kait Schoeck, a prominent industrial designer at Microsoft, said her team printed 3D “in different shapes and sizes of ear bud in an attempt to prevent the device from falling out – a common complaint with other brands of wireless headphones.”
“We have examined thousands of ears,” Ms. Schoeck said.
But we also took the approach of trying it out. It’s really about creating the prototype and putting it in people’s ears. So hundreds and hundreds of people will come through this lab, try it out, give us feedback, and go through another iteration. ”
While wearing the device, surface earbuds can be used as a controller, such as tapping your ear to move on a Powerpoint chip, Microsoft said.
However, at a price of $ 249, the product is much more expensive than the Amazon Echo shoots ($ 130) and the latest AirPods from Apple ($ 159 / $ 199).