In a virtual briefing hosted yesterday by Microsoft communications executive Frank Shaw and chief product officer Panos Panay, the duo (pun intended) tossed to colleagues in neighboring rooms and to designers standing six feet apart in a lab, all of whom tried valiantly to make a case for this hybrid product. It is a sleek, gleaming little space-white booklet with a hinge—Panay calls it “one of the sexiest devices we’ve built”—and no doubt strange. It also costs $1,399.Microsoft, in a relatively short amount of time, has had to reconsider the purpose of the Duo. When the Duo was first revealed to WIRED last October, Panay insisted that it helps him stay “in the flow”—his productivity zone—so many times that I wondered if an internal quota had been set for the phrase. The Duo, like the foldable phones from Samsung and Motorola , was pitched as a product for people on the go. You wouldn’t need to carry a phone and a tablet with you on the train or plane; with a foldable , you have both. And the dual-screened OS? No prob: You could run Outlook and PowerPoint, side by side, because work work work work work.
It will run on an Intel heterogeneous chip, designed for smaller form factors, and it will run on a new version of the OS called Windows 10X, which is designed for dual-screen PCs. The Surface Duo, which at first glance looks like a Mini Me of the Surface Neo, is in many ways a completely different product.
Now Microsoft is trying to sell an ultraportable two-in-one at a time when many of us are going exactly nowhere. For the digital employee, work has officially been redefined as WFH, and our days are structured by whatever screen we have to use at any given hour. The move from a 6-inch screen to a 13-inch one, and later in the evening to a 50-inch screen or 10-inch one, is the delineator between work and leisure. Now, Microsoft wants to wedge its way into your living room and onto your couch, instead of your train ride and your office.