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Microsoft introduced the Surface Neo dual-screen device with a new Windows 10X

Gregory FrenchOct 3, 201937214 votes +10 rating

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.

Microsoft Surface Neo dual-screen device with Windows 10XPhoto: Microsoft

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.

Microsoft Surface Neo dual-screen device with Windows 10XPhoto: Microsoft

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.”

Microsoft Surface Neo dual-screen device with Windows 10XPhoto: Microsoft

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 Surface Neo dual-screen device with Windows 10XPhoto: Microsoft

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.

Microsoft Surface Neo dual-screen device with Windows 10XPhoto: Microsoft

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.

Foldable phones allow us to have big screens

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:

Foldable phones allow us to have big screens

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):

Foldable phones allow us to have big screens

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.

Foldable phones allow us to have big screens

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.

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  1. Sarah Gillmor
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    Sarah GillmorJournalist
    2019-10-3, 8:44AM
    Microsoft Surface Neo didn't really excite me to be honest. The most impressive update today for me was the Surface Laptop 3 and possibly the Pro7 X but as I have an iPad Pro, none are impressive enough to consider changing to the Surface Eco System.

    Also, I just don't rate Windows 10 in general, especially control panel stuff and the shocking way it still forces updates. My work laptop (Win 10) is always messing up my multi screen configuration as I switch from home to office. It's like it has the display driver from Windows 95 under the hood.
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  2. Ian Lexxus
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    Ian LexxusJournalist
    2019-10-3, 8:26AM
    Hmm, I don't quite know if I'm excited for this. If you asked me before Samsung and Huawei released their foldable phones I would have said yes, but now I don't really think I want a hardware seam making these essentially two screens instead of one larger on. I get that the displays will be much nicer Gorilla glass versus the plastic on the Samsung/Huawei, but I still don't want that seam. Microsoft went to great lengths to convince us that we need two screens, but seem to have forgotten that one large screen is easily converted into two smaller screens thanks in great part to their own Windows OS.

    The other stuff, the postures and such were just ok, maybe kind of cool when using the hardware keyboard. I'd most likely just use this as a folded tablet. I'm hoping by 2020 some more foldable phones with better screens get released, but if not then I'm willing to wait another year or three. Plus didn't Lenovo release a dual screen phone similar to this not too long ago?
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  3. Jason Hensel
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    Jason HenselJournalist
    2019-10-3, 8:18AM
    Will buy at release, dreamed of the courier since I saw the first render of it. Really like the idea of a Notebook (paper version) style computer like the courier concept showed since I tried it with various tablets but it's an awkward form factor compared to a dual screen book style. Hoped for a sneak preview of the Surface Book 3 to replace my old Surface Book.

    But that Surface Pro X looked damn fine and will keep an eye on that one. Microsoft seems to be the magic company to beat and downright crushes Apple these days and everyone else.
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  4. iLawyer
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    iLawyerJournalist
    2019-10-3, 8:15AM
    I'm seriously looking forward for this. Windows team will really need to make sure everything is polished before the release, not to repeat how buggy and incomplete Windows 10 and W10M at launch. I will seriously miss the Live Tile if it will not make it into the final software. Shame since it will be even more useful here since I can have it on another screen while doing something on an app. So much opportunities to improve Live Tile into widgets but Microsoft just can't see it anymore. Ironic since Microsoft Launcher have Widgets.

    Most developers never really embraced Live Tiles. They do make widgets. So maybe someone could make a widget to do that on the second screen? You might even be able to make a decent buck off of it. IMO, just showing your notifications drawer on the opposite screen would accomplish the same effect, and it'd be scrollable, too.
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  5. Gregory French
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    Author: Gregory FrenchJournalist
    2019-10-3, 7:36AM
    I would have gave it a pass if it had a non-foldable display. Seriously the tech behind these non-foldable displays is so bad and it has too many issues/breaking points. And tbh what would be the advantage if it was all just one foldable display? If you were to watch a movie it would still be scaled down a lot, because of the akward aspect ratio that the display would have... so really you could as well just watch the movie on one screen, while the other half is sitting on your lap.
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