surface duo

Brown’s Bytes – Return Of The Zombie Phone!?

Welcome to Brown’s Bytes! Your weekly insight from Mobliciti’s CTO Andy Brown. Follow #brownsbytes

4th October 2019

Well nobody saw that one coming…

The announcement this week by Microsoft of a new mobile phone!

The new Surface Duo isn’t going to arrive for another year, but it definitely got a fair bit of press.

Of course, the obvious reason for that is that for Microsoft, smartphones is an area that hasn’t exactly gone well for the past (to say the least).

Having completely missed the smartphone explosion during which Windows Mobile devices looked amazingly out of date, Windows Phone was then launched to catch-up. Microsoft then entered into the doomed acquisition of Nokia to push the hardware side as well.

We all know how that ended up, so I won’t go over old ground. But for Microsoft to consider dipping a toe back into these murky waters is fascinating and worthy of investigation.

So, why now?

There are several things that make this news rather interesting from my perspective.

  1. Microsoft has built an impressive share of the Windows 10 hardware market with its Surface range of devices – it is a hardware player these days
  2. The Surface range of devices is rather good now. They are a well built and stylish way to deploy Windows-based hardware
  3. Enterprises are increasingly using these devices
  4. With Microsoft 365 you can see that Microsoft have a vision for their hardware to be consumed in conjunction with their wider services
  5. They clearly have some good designers who are prepared to not just follow the herd
  6. It runs Android!

The biggy is for me is that last one. It shows a pragmatism that is fascinating and potentially rather clever.

Windows Phone failed because it never reached critical mass for apps. There was nothing actually wrong with the OS at all. It was bold and different – even now live tiles look ahead of the flat icon-based UIs still in use elsewhere. By launching on Android that whole problem of an app ecosystem is eradicated in a stroke.

In addition, Android is open enough for Microsoft to tweak the OS as they choose – maybe not the UI too much, but the management and security layer could be very tightly integrated into the rest of the Microsoft stack. That’s potentially very interesting in the enterprise market.

The Surface Duo is also not trying to take the traditional smartphone market head-on. The form factor is pretty unique, and I have to admit the idea of two screens is rather clever – it avoids the current pitfalls seen with flexible screen phones so far whilst offering a genuinely different user experience.

I suspect it won’t be cheap, but I for one am not laughing – I think this one could potentially be the beginning of something…

Watch this space!