Surface Duo Success Rides on Android Industry Change

Updated on 12 October 2019 by

The Surface Duo has been announced. Microsoft are going to “reimagine productivity on the go“, which are words I’ve written many times for product launches that failed. Is the Surface Duo any different?

I added the new and modular LG G8X THINQ specs to the database recently and I was excited. The reason? It looks practical and robust, and the dual screen add-on might work well for a weekend away. But here, with the Surface Duo, we’re talking about a completely different type of device.

Let’s ignore the simple issues for the moment. I don’t want to go into the technical details of battery life on dual-screens, the weight, size and practicality of a smartphone that needs to be opened before it is usable. The Snapdragon 855 will need an update in late 2020 too if it’s going to be competitive. These issues are minor, and can be fixed over time. The non-trivial issue is with third-party software.

In 2010 I analysed a ‘productive format’ Android Donut smartbook. It didn’t excite developers then, and there’s still no evidence that developers are interested in supporting large-screen Android devices today. Will dual-screen fold-able devices be any different? Only if they start to sell in the hundreds of millions. That’s a huge, huge challenge. It’s a change that can only happen when the Android industry successfully introduces dual-screen products…before Apple.

Microsoft will optimise their application-suite for the final launch of Duo in late 2020 and they’ll pay developers to bring headline apps to the platform, but when did we ever see a device like this getting organic support from developers until it was selling like hot-cakes?

Never. If developers don’t see ground-breaking numbers, they won’t invest. As always it’s IOS first, Android second, or maybe iPadOS second?

Summary

Microsoft have made a significant statement by launching an Android mobile device and their work with (and support of) Google may well see benefits in the Windows 10 world but it’s going to require an industry-wide push for dual-screen devices before developers get interested in the Surface Duo. It didn’t happen in the Ultrabook world, it didn’t happen with 2-in-1 touchscreen laptops and Windows Mobile is an obvious example of a failed investment by Microsoft.

A small clutch of dual-screen smartphone launches won’t make a difference. If the Android industry can get fully behind the dual-screen movement though, there’s a chance. Otherwise, it’s Apple’s market for the taking, again.

P.S. Of course I’m interested in buying the Surface Duo. Like every mobile tech adventurer out there, I’m excited. Anyone want to guess-the-price? Answers in the comments please.

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