Microsoft's Surface Duo may be Kin, the sequel

Weak specs for a high price and questionable productivity gains plague the Microsoft Duo out of the gate.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

You remember Microsoft Kin right? Oh you forgot? You'll forget Surface Duo in a few years too. 

Microsoft's Duo aims to create a new market with an Android-powered two-screen device that lacks 5G and a strong camera with the promise of integrated Office apps and productivity gains all for a starting price of $1,399.

Now some of you will be in a hurry to preorder, but the Duo is a hard sell. Yes, Microsoft is giving Duo some Surface design love, but it's a generation behind Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold and is likely to be squeezed by both tablets and smartphones. The Duo may also screw up Microsoft's lovefest with Samsung. Matthew Miller noted that LG's dual screen Android devices may offer better value and TechRepublic's Bill Detwiler also has doubts about the Duo

The odds are likely that the Surface Duo will be more Microsoft Kin and Microsoft Band than Surface. Sure, Panos Panay, chief product officer of Microsoft's Windows + Devices unit, mocks doubters of the Surface in a blog post, but the reality is that these shifts take time.

CNET: Microsoft's two-screen Surface Duo isn't an iPhone or Galaxy Fold. That's the point | Microsoft Surface Duo's design is winning me over, even without turning it onSurface Duo vs. Galaxy Z Fold 2 vs. Razr: How Microsoft's new foldable compares to its rivals

And for a starting price of $1,399 I have time. After all, Microsoft already has some of the best Android devices with its apps on the market with Samsung. Those devices are:

Also: Note 20 Ultra: Really, Samsung? Forget phablets. Pair a smaller phone with a tablet instead | Bill Gates: You'd all be on Windows Mobile today, not Android, but I screwed up

Panay said in a post:

Today, as we look ahead to the next wave of mobile productivity and creativity, we see that same opportunity to create something new with Surface Duo – not to reinvent the phone, but to inspire people to rethink how they want to use the device in their pocket.

Here's the problem: If a device is going to fit in your pocket it's going to compete with a smartphone--at least until we wear holsters for devices like we live in some productivity Wild West.


Here's another problem: The specs aren't that hot. Consider:

  • Surface Duo lacks 5G, a base requirement for anything with a premium price tag especially as tablets and affordable smartphones are on deck.
  • Surface Duo lacks Wi-Fi 6.
  • Surface Duo has one (ONE!) 11MP camera. Where are my other three?!?

Now Microsoft claims that it will offer a seamless PC-Duo experience and has optimized its apps for two screens. And yes, the Surface Duo will get notifications, texts and calls. But everything from a 360-degree hinge and dual system architecture sounds very first generation. Perhaps the Duo is very science project.

Inside the Microsoft Surface Duo (in pictures)

The jury is also going to be out about how the Duo manages dueling Microsoft and Google apps. For instance, Microsoft's Outlook, OneDrive and Bing are all built into the Duo. But Google Search, Gmail and Calendar are also installed. And you thought the default app prompt on Samsung devices was annoying.

In any case, the betting line is the Duo is going to struggle out of the gate. With any luck Duo 2, 3 and 4 will be better--assuming it lasts that long.

Also: 5 reasons why Microsoft is even entertaining a Tik Tok purchase | Inside the Museum of Failure: Microsoft's Kin to Apple's Pippin, the world's greatest flops


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