The tech giant Microsoft is making a phone, again. Which stopped producing phones years ago, is hoping to stage a comeback with the Surface Duo. As the name suggests, the device has two screens, connected by a hinge. Microsoft is attempting to succeed where others have failed in the dual-screen phone space. (Here's how the Surface Duo compares to the Galaxy Fold.)
"This product brings together the absolute best of Microsoft, and we're partnering with Google to bring the absolute best of Android in one product," said Microsoft Product Chief Panos Panay. "This is industry-pushing technology." The whole thing is a bit of a surprise, considering Microsoft eventually gave up making phones after its troubled 2014 purchase of phone giant Nokia for more than $7 billion. This time, Microsoft says its new innovations, like the dual-screen folding display and special technology it built for the Google Android software that powers the gadget, will help make the difference. We won't know for sure until the Surface Duo is released next year.
It's not the only product Microsoft announced Wednesday. The company also showed off updates to its Surface laptop lines, including the Surface Neo, a larger, dual-screen laptop, powered by a new version of Windows designed to allow apps and keyboards to work more seamlessly with these new devices. Like the Surface Duo, it won't be released till next year.
It's rare for a company to preannounce new devices so far in advance of their launch, particularly because excited customers may hold off on purchasing this year's devices while they wait for the ones coming next year. But for Microsoft, the risk may be worth the reward of surprising the tech industry with new devices and the promise of a different approach to its laptops. Microsoft pulled off such a surprise in 2012 when it announced the first Surface hybrid tablet. Until then, the company had primarily been a software maker, with the exception of its Xbox video game console and some phones.
Now, seven years later, the Microsoft Surface Pro is still well-regarded for its tabletlike slim form, keyboard cover and digital stylus pen, even if Microsoft doesn't sell enough of them to compete with the likes of Lenovo, HP or Dell. The attention on Microsoft may be focused on next year's new devices, but the company also announced new laptops coming this year. They include an update to the Surface Pro line and the new Surface Laptop 3 with new high-performance "Ryzen" graphics chips from AMD. Microsoft also announced an ultraslim Surface Pro X tablet-laptop hybrid, powered by a custom chip that promises better performance and battery life.
The company known for its Windows operating system is getting back into smartphones by embracing Google's Android. The Surface Duo will have two 5.6-inch displays that expand to an 8.3-inch device. Microsoft said that it would be released in time for the holidays in 2020.
Equipped with dual 9-inch displays, the Surface Neo weighs 1.4 pounds and is only 5.6mm thick -- a super-svelte profile achieved by using the thinnest LCDs ever created. Attached with 360-degree hinges, the displays have more than 60 microcoaxial cables running between them. Like the Surface Duo, the Neo won't appear in stores until the 2020 holiday season.
The Surface Neo will run on Windows 10X -- a new version of Microsoft's OS specially designed and optimized for dual-screen devices. "It's a new expression of Windows 10 that we've been designing and building for the last couple of years, with hundreds of engineers and designers at Microsoft," said Carmen Zlateff, Microsoft Program Manager for Experiences and Devices. "Our goal is to fuel a new era of mobile productivity and creativity across two screens."
Surface Laptop 3
The third generation of the Surface Laptop will come in two sizes, 13.5-inches and 15-inches, starting at $999 and $1,199, respectively. Both have a touchscreen display, enhanced keyboards and trackpads, USB-C connections and a modular design. And the specs have gotten an upgrade, too: the Surface Laptop 3 features 10th-gen quad-core 10nm Intel CPUs and the exclusive AMD Ryzen Surface Edition graphics chip.
Surface Pro X
The new 13-inch Surface Pro X is a Windows tablet that runs on a special Microsoft-custom version of a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the SQ1 Arm chip. The Pro X has a 13-inch display, a new Surface Slim pen that can be stowed in a garage above the keyboard and two USB-C connections. The Surface Pro X is available for preorder now, starting at $999, and will ship in November.
Surface Pro 7
The new Surface Pro 7 gets its annual makeover with new Intel Core Ice Lake processors, up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of SSD capacity. It starts at $749 and is available for preorder.
SQ1 custom Arm chip
Developed in partnership with Qualcomm, the new SQ1 chip offers dedicated circuitry for accelerating AI software -- a major advance in computing technology for intensive tasks like recognizing speech and editing photos. Microsoft emphasized the chip's efficiency, claiming that it delivered three times more performance per watt than the one used in the previous Surface Pro model.
Following in the path of the Surface noise-canceling headphones released last year, Microsoft has announced the true wireless Surface Earbuds. The company didn't release too many details -- but we know they'll be released in time for the holidays at a price of $249.