Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled the new Surface device with twin-screens that open like books, including a notepad-shaped version that will put it back in the smartphone game next year. The Surface Duo was the first device in the lineup to be fitted in a pants pocket with two “paper-thin” 5.6-inch screens that harmonize and work with a specially tailored Android operating system .
Described as a “new class” of devices, the Duo can make telephone calls and run applications designed for Google-supported Android mobile software, which powers most of the world’s smartphones.
“You’re going to talk about it as a phone, and I get that,” said Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay at a Surface event in Duo, New York, which will be available later next year .
“You can text; you can write; you can do what you want, make no mistake. This product is a surface.”
The Duo and a separate foldable Neo tablet came as a surprise at an event in New York where the tech titan unveiled its latest lineup of surface computing devices.
Microsoft surrendered the smartphone market to Apple and Google’s operating systems years ago.
Although it continues to emphasize its cloud computing and other business services, Microsoft still draws considerable revenue from Windows, the software that powers the vast majority of PCs.
Smartphones and tablets from Microsoft’s subscription-based, cloud-hosted applications abstain from relying on packaged software in the company’s successful turnaround.
Microsoft achieved strong growth in cloud services and revenue from its Xbox gaming business, Bing Search, Surface Tablet and PC, as well as the acquisition of the commercial social network LinkedIn in 2016.
Struggling to gain traction as its Windows Mobile phone business, Microsoft acquired Finland-based Nokia’s device business in 2014 for $ 7.2 as part of a reboot effort.
But that failed and Microsoft eventually threw in the towel on its Windows Mobile operating system, which failed to gain a foothold in an area dominated by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.
“I believe that Microsoft’s third-time Surface smartphone success has changed in favor of the company,” said Patrick Moorehead, analyst at Moore Insights and Strategy.
“The time is right, too, as it will take a new and radical foldable design to wake buyers from their ‘good enough’ sleep.”
Microsoft argued that building on Android mobile operating systems provides a good foundation for the Duo and in many cases can help replace larger devices such as tablets and laptops.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at the Surface event, “We wanted to create the experiences that make all devices in our lives.”
At the event on Wednesday, the US technology titan unveiled a Neo dual-screen, foldable version of its full Surface tablet, which, like the Duo, will be released late next year.
Microsoft also unveiled the new Surface laptop and earbuds to hit the market in time for the shopping season later this year.
“All in all, it was a big event for Microsoft with new form factors, new use cases and processor options,” Moorehead said.