Duo Thoughts


The Surface Duo turns a whole lot of things in the story of Microsoft, Surface and mobile their respective heads. I have been thinking about this a lot and not really come to any conclusions.

The first thing is the relationship between hardware and software. Microsoft client operating systems had always been built for other people to make the software. Surface upset this being both Microsoft hardware and software. Surface Duo turns all this around 180 degrees. It’s Microsoft hardware with a third party OS. In this case Google. 

It is a Surface in the sense of creating a new form factor. However, they are trying so hard not to call it a phone. They are trying to say that this device is for “dual screen productivity”. It feels like they really want to make a phone but recent history means they can’t. So, despite aching to make a phone, they have come up with a device that can do everything a mobile phone can do but they don’t want to call it that. I slightly wonder if a “Surface Phone” turn up eventually. After all the Surface Pro and the Surface Book tried to avoid being laptop. Then eventually they built a laptop.

Panos Panay was interesting holding the Duo. My mind slipped back to the moment he held up the Lumia 950 in 2015. He looked like a man holding someone else’s product. It was. It was a Nokia. At that point he looked like a man trying to promote the benefits of doing root canal surgery on yourself. The Windows Mobile 10 OS was buggy and was only at its best after the anniversary upgrade. The plastic back and removable battery didn’t feel too flagship at all. However, WindowsPhone fans were waiting for the first Microsoft Lumia. 

It struck me that the Duo was what WindowsPhone should have been. Designed and built by Microsoft. They had Apple envy but not Apple execution. Microsoft had to wait for OEMs, wait for carriers then subsidise Nokia. This is another 180. If they want a device like Surface Duo they must build it themselves. If they really wanted a phone business in 2010 that would compete with Apple then they should have built it themselves. 

Comments (19)

19 responses to “Duo Thoughts”

  1. johnh3

    As I understand it Ballmer wanted to build own phones early but was hold back by Bill Gates. In perspective I think Ballmer was to restricted by Gates that have left the CEO position but had much influence anyway.

    And for the Surface Duo, im not sure how it goes. Maybe a one time experiment as the Cortana speaker and other stuff that Microsoft cancelled. I guess I only trust Microsoft in PC.s and laptops.

    If they want to build Android phones now, it feels almost to late. I think they had a chance with the Nokia X program that was Android AOSP with some converted apps.

    Nadella pulled the plug for that attempt to..

    But who know? Maybe they are commited this time.

    • lecter

      In reply to johnh3:

      Regarding the Nokia X, I think it was the right move. An Android device without Google's blessing is dead on arrival...the only reason Amazon gets away with not having the Play Store, Google Maps, Google Play Services, etc. is that their tablets (only tablets, btw, not phones) are sold for double-digit prices and are basically just dumb screens people give their children or watch Netflix on in the middle of the night.

      No one bought the Fire Phone (which is exactly what the Nokia X would have been) and Huawei phones are going down the tubes for the same reason, even though they have vastly better hardware than anything MS could (or can) come up with.

      • johnh3

        In reply to lecter:

        But the Nokia X phone sold fine in the markets where it was avaible after all. They made 3 models in total. So compared to the Fire Phone it was a good start. To bad they (Microsoft) just continued and see how long it would go. Nokia hade many great alternative apps to HERE maps for example.

  2. kingbuzzo

    Unfortunately for me I will be getting the 1.0 device but hoping for the best.

    My crusty/trusty 950 isn't going to last much longer - the battery is starting to fade - so I need a replacement.

    I wonder what they have done, if anything, to de-fang andud from Goobles advertising engine.

    I may have to sell my kidney to afford this...thing

    Switching platforms is going to be a struggle for me personally.

    • darkgrayknight

      In reply to kingbuzzo:

      While Microsoft Launcher is decent and has some relation to Windows Phone, I find "Launcher 10" to be the better launcher and more directly like Windows Phone 10.

      I moved to a Samsung Note 9 after the ICON. I set it up with all the Microsoft software I could and limited/removed Google items, though that was a lot of work getting around their defaults. Samsung has its own set of things as well. I still don't like Google's version of contacts, so I use Samsung's contacts app, but still thinking about writing my own. It'll be rough to transition from hold habits, but even with a Duo, I expect there are many things done the "Android" way.

  3. olditpro2000

    Panos Panay has a picture of him using the device again up on Twitter today.

  4. simont

    As a communications device, it does look interesting. I will wait for Gen 2 to buy one if Gen 2 happens. Been burned too many times with Gen 1 devices.

  5. robincapper

    About the time Surface Studio was released Microsoft turned up at work with it, Surface Book, Surface, Win 10 Phone and Hololens. They had a complete touch/OS workflow from pocket to desktop, physical and virtual. Duo means they do again.

  6. msedkowski

    I think this time the success of the device will depend more on branding and targeting the right user. Finally Microsoft is not trying to reinvent the wheel and stick to established standards - Android and the Play Store. So apps and companion devices like wearables are covered. The question still remains who is this device for? Productivity focused enthusiasts? Business? The branding here is just unclear where does the device fit in and as many others have pointed out - will Microsoft commit to supporting the device for the long run with security patches and Android upgrades? These are all questions still without an answer and the release date is apparently coming soon. A device without a strategy behind it is dead on arrival.

  7. jimchamplin

    Meh. I don't think that there was any chance in the world for the organization Microsoft was a decade ago to pull off a smartphone platform with any chance of success. Their ideas for the software were better, but they reset the damn thing so many times (more than once is too many) and early on had such weird and hyper-specific requirements for the OEMs. Then there's the whole issue with them charging for the OS.

    While Google iterated and steadily improved Android, Microsoft spun their wheels switching from 7 to 7.5 to 8. Forcing developers to learn yet another new platform and users to buy a whole new phone was like pouring chilled, pure spring water on a dumpster fire. 8 was good, but asshat Sinofsky's brain-dead decision to not make Windows 8's API the same as Windows Phone 8's API was a self-inflicted gunshot to the foot. He should have been overruled and removed at that time when it was clear that he would be an impediment to the One Windows initiative.

    Institutionally, Microsoft was incapable of doing the things that needed to be done.

    • james.h.robinson

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      Also, it was hard for Microsoft to compete with "free." Android itself doesn't cost anything upfront for OEMs to put on their devices, plus Android provides the freedom for OEMs to customize it so they can avoid (or at least mitigate) creating commodity products. That didn't help Windows Phone's situation at all.

      • jimchamplin

        In reply to james.h.robinson:

        No, but Microsoft very well could have compromised on their old business model to establish their ecosystem. It would have been especially nice to OEMs who would leave the UI alone and help them develop custom apps to differentiate their products. Be the friend that Google wouldn’t.

        They literally just expected everyone to flock to them because Microsoft.

  8. peterc

    The surface duo will become the best mobile device for using MS teams and all it’s future features on the go or as a mobility solution.

    It’s a winner.

  9. navarac

    I have so little trust in Microsoft and the mobile side of things. I would not invest in their efforts for any reason as I have been burned far too many times.

  10. darkgrayknight

    Some interesting thoughts for sure. Microsoft had some great ideas in Windows Phone, mainly the re-centering on getting something done vs loading an app. If that could be pulled into an Android phone, that would be great. Microsoft is routinely far ahead and way behind with its technology.

  11. constable

    Yeah, Duo are dead in the water, its pretty obvious. Why build and sell what is essentially a Android device? Makes no sense at all. Maybe Neo will be released as a sort of testbed for Windows 10X but Duo? No.

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