Nearly 10 years after Microsoft began developing a dual-screen device (codenamed Courier), the company finally released it. At a Microsoft device event, Surface Neo was introduced. The foldable device will run a new version of Windows called Windows 10X, and sales will start only at the Christmas holidays of 2020.
The presentation was led by the head of the Surface division at Microsoft Panos Panay. In his speech, he said:
How can we show our products until the work on them is completed? Surface Neo is a new product, which, in my opinion, is a new category of devices.
The Surface Neo is equipped with two large screens with a noticeable gap between them. Users will be able to perform different tasks on each screen or in certain scenarios use one screen as a continuation of another.
The diagonal of each screen is 9 inches. The thickness of the device is 5.6 mm, and the weight is 655 grams. The matrix is protected by glass with Gorilla glass technology. Panay claims that “this is the thinnest display at the moment.”
The device is not large, but in the open state is more like a laptop. Surface Neo runs on a chip from Intel, namely the “hybrid” Intel Lakefield processor with an 11th generation graphics engine.
The device works with the new Surface stylus, which is attached to the back of the device. The keyboard is also of interest. It is separate, but magnetized to the back of the device. The keyboard can be placed on top of one of the screens. In this case, additional input methods will be available on the visible part of the screen, for example emoji or an improvised trackpad. The keyboard can be used separately, working immediately with two screens.
Microsoft loves to make complex hinges, often they are the central element of device design. Surface Neo screens can rotate 360 degrees, so the device can be used in different modes or “poses”. For example, in laptop mode, you can print on one screen, and use the second as a solid base and touch keyboard if you do not want to use a physical keyboard.
As for Windows 10X, this version will get a new Start menu and taskbar, but otherwise it looks like regular Windows 10. Carmen Zlateff, a leading Microsoft software engineer, said on stage that the default applications will be run on the screen on which you will call them. You can use different applications on different screens. When changing the layout of the device, the workspace will also adapt to the new mode.
Zlateff announced support for all applications, including Microsoft Office. According to rumors, “container” technology will be used to launch applications. Presumably, containers will run classic Win32 applications that are important to the Microsoft ecosystem. However, it is not known how "container" applications will be inferior in performance to native programs.
And one of the popular comments is this:
It’s not about that. Think about it.
Foldable (screen) phones allow us to have big screens in our pockets. That’s essentially the big advantage. Secondary advantages are better dual app experience, and a built in kickstand. But the advantage is obvious. Apps are constrained on phones, always have been, especially now with the narrow 21:9 trend.
The more screen real estate, the better the experience and the more you can do. Just look at the Fold when it is being used open as a camera – the viewfinder is huge. Maps and gaming also come to mind. It virtually changes the entire way you use the device. You are almost going from a narrow strip to a large square. Big change in aspect ratio and size.
Now take a folding screen laptop, like that Lenovo prototype, pictured here:
Not only are you losing a physical keyboard (which phones never had) but what real advantage does this have over a dual screen laptop, like that Asus Project Precog one? The only “advantage” is that you can unfold it all the way, put it side ways, and have a mini monitor. Is that something anyone is clamoring for? Are 15" really not big enough for most people? And if someone is traveling with a laptop, they most likely have enough space for a second (bigger) USB-C monitor anyway.
To summarize, the one the right has a clear advantage over the one on the left (although I still think the Duo has a place):
In contrast below, the one on the left doesn’t have a killer advantage over the one on the right. Not enough to lose a lot of durability over, and not enough of one to get the industry to invest and move units. Much easier and just as profitable to use two LCDs. Still hype and still marketable.
I’ve thought about this a lot. The folding screen Lenovo laptop is really cool and sci fi, but from a usability standpoint, it’s just not marketable, not to mention the huge cost of using big flexible AMOLED displays over 2 LCDs. Companies will see it’s a money pit.