Microsoft’s new lineup of Surface computers includes two dual-screen devices that won’t be out for another year.
The smaller one, an Android phone called Surface Duo, will mark Microsoft’s re-entry into smartphones, a market the company abandoned after flops with its own operating system and an ill-fated purchase of smartphone maker Nokia.
“I believe the third time’s a charm for Microsoft and smartphones,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with moor Insights & Strategy.
He said Microsoft has had a good track record with Surface devices, while the Duo’s novel design offers something new at a time when phone innovation has been slowing down.
Microsoft says the Duo makes phone calls, though it stopped short of calling it a phone. Though it runs Android, the back of the prototype has a Surface logo that resembles Windows. The company prefers calling the Duo just another Surface device.
Meanwhile, the larger Surface Neo runs a dual-screen variant of Windows called 10X. In a blog post, Microsoft said other manufacturers including Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo will also make dual-screen and foldable devices using Windows 10X.
Both Surface devices feature two screens connected with a hinge and can fold like laptops. They can display separate apps side by side or a single app stretched across both screens. They are technologically less ambitious than foldable phones from Samsung and others, whose screens actually bend as the devices close. Some of those folding phones have experienced technical difficulties.
The devices will initially be available only for developers who create and test apps. Microsoft plans to start selling them during the 2020 shopping season.
Available sooner are $249 Surface Earbuds, as Microsoft joins Apple, Amazon, Google and others in making wireless listening devices.
At a product event in New York, Microsoft also unveiled two new Surface Pro tablets. The Surface Pro X will have a 13-inch screen, rather than the 12-inch ones on the new Pro 7 and older models. But the X will be about the same size overall, thanks to a smaller bezel.
The company also unveiled a refreshed laptop.