Microsoft gave us a preview of its dual-screen future late last year with the Surface Duo and Neo, but that future might be further away than we thought. According to a new report, Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer Panos Panay told his teams that the Windows-based Surface Neo won’t ship in 2020 as initially planned. The company also won’t allow its partners to ship any dual-screen devices with Windows 10X this year.
The Surface Neo is a striking device that harkens back to the Microsoft Courier concept that sparked excitement a decade ago. It sports a pair of 9-inch screens with a 360-degree hinge. When open side-by-side, the Neo has a 13-inch diagonal display space. Microsoft plans to release a keyboard dock that sits on top of one of the displays, making it more like a traditional laptop.
Microsoft said recently that its supply chain was being affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but several weeks later it had hinted that things had stabilized. That gave observers hope that the company’s new Surface projects would remain on-track. However, it sounds like the Neo’s issue is software-related rather than hardware.
With everything Microsoft is promising (see the video below), it clearly needs to make some changes to Windows, which has only rudimentary dual-screen support currently. That’s the goal of Windows 10X, or rather, it was. Long-time Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley says the company’s new priority is to get the streamlined Windows 10X working on single-screen devices. This could enable less expensive, Chromebook-like Windows laptops to take off, says Foley.
A particular focus of Microsoft’s efforts is to get “containerized” apps working smoothly on Windows 10X. Microsoft wants to require all applications on Windows 10X to run in containers. Thus, Win32, Universal Windows Platform (UWP), and web apps would have improved security and performance on Windows 10X. The virtualization of Win32 apps is allegedly a difficult engineering issue, though.
Microsoft has not delayed the release of the smaller Surface Duo, at least based on current reports. This dual-screen phone runs on Android as Microsoft has given up on the Windows 10 Mobile platform. One benefit of that is that Android already has many of the necessary pieces in place for advanced dual-screen functionality, and Microsoft can make the necessary customizations rather easily. So, this device will probably still show up later in the fall.
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