Microsoft's Dual-Screen Duo Is Here. The Timing's Not Great

Last October, during a long day of closed-door sessions and windowless-lab meetings with executives and product managers, the kind of closeness that would now make me shudder in the context of a pandemic, Microsoft revealed its dual-screened phone. The joke at the time was that Microsoft refused to call the Surface Duo a phone, identifying it instead as a brand-new kind of hybrid device, even though it runs Android and makes phone calls.Update! The company’s still not calling it a phone. But Microsoft has managed to keep its promise of shipping the Surface Duo by the 2020 holiday season. It goes on sale today and will ship early next month.
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.

Photograph: Microsoft
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.
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.