Microsoft launches smartphone Surface Duo

Bloomberg New York | Updated on October 03, 2019 Published on October 03, 2019

Microsoft's Surface Duo smartphone   -  Bloomberg

The phone runs on Google’s Android OS


Microsoft Corp has made a comeback in the handset market.

The company unveiled the Surface duo, which is dual-screen, foldable phone that will run on Google’s Android Operating System (OS). This phone has two 5.6-inch screens.

This comes three years after Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Satya Nadella took Microsoft out of the phone business to arrest Windows sliding share in the smartphone market. Nadella had taken the decision after the purchase of the Nokia Oyjs handset unit, for more than $7 billion, had failed.

Since then, company executives have repeatedly said that Microsoft would not re-enter the market unless it had something different to offer.

Surface Duo: In time for 2020 holiday season

Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer, Panos Panay said at an event in New York, that the phone will ship in time for the 2020 holiday season .With the Duo, Microsoft will seek to seize a share of a massive global market for mobile phones thats on the cusp of transitioning to new technology with the arrival of 5G networks.

A return to smartphone market this time has Microsoft relying Google’s Android Operating System. Android powers the large majority of smartphones around the world.

“This is an aggressive move that was not expected by the Street. We view it as a smart strategic gamble by Nadella to jump back into the deep end of the pool on the smartphone front,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives.

The new phone makes sense for Microsoft because any company that is serious about hardware needs to have a mobile play, said Ryan Reith, an analyst at research firm IDC.

“The most interesting thing about the announcement is the dual-screen form. It’s likely Microsoft made that choice because a regular phone wouldn’t have stood out as much among the dozens of alternatives already out there,” he said.

Surface Duo smartphone and Surface Neo laptop   -  Bloomberg


Microsoft and the hardware business

The move also draws Microsoft further into a hardware business some investors still have not warmed-up to.

Microsoft shares were down 2.2 per cent to $134.01 at 12:31 pm in New York.

Nadella has been quick to embrace rival products where it advances Microsoft’s goals, such as apps for Android and Apple Inc’s iOS, and using the Linux OS within Windows and Azure cloud products.

The European Unions (EU) anti-trust ruling against Google last year, over the way it puts search and web-browser apps onto Android devices, also means Microsoft would be freer to merge its own apps with Android. Since the EU’s case, it is now possible for a phone maker to use Android as well as Play app store and still pre-install all of its own services on the homescreen.

“Microsoft and Google make competing sets of productivity software, and it remains to be seen which company’s apps will be preloaded on the phone. Still, it’s unlikely the handset will become a major battleground for the two. Both risk their productivity suites competing with each other but there’s more short-term opportunity for them collaborating,” Reith said.

Microsoft’s Surface Neo Laptop

Other announcements made at Microsoft’s annual hardware event include a new Surface Neo laptop witha 360-degree hinge and two 9-inch screens so it can open like a book or like a laptop. The device has a removable, flipable keyboard. This magnetically seals to the back of the device, along with a pen. It will run a new version of Windows 10 designed for dual screens called Windows 10X.

The new foldable Surface products come as companies like Samsung Electronics Co and Huawei Technologies Co have also rolled out phones with similar features, albeit after some initial design difficulties, and PC makers like Lenovo Group Ltd have shown computer prototypes with folding screens.

The Pro X hybrid tablet-laptop

Microsoft also introduced a completely re-designed version of its Surface Pro hybrid tablet-laptop that’s thinner, lighter and faster than previous models and runs on a customized processor with Microsoft and Qualcomm Inc technology.

Surface Pro X   -  Bloomberg


Called the Pro X, the device also has a custom artificial intelligence processor and better battery life. The devices pen gets stowed inthe tablets cover where it wirelessly charges. Microsoft also showed off white, circular Surface earbuds that have touch controls to enable the user to take calls and switch music. They will be available later this year starting at $249.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft relies on its Surface devices to boost sales as well as show off its software and attract customers to its family of products. Many of the products have been well reviewed, though Microsoft lags behind Apple and other hardware vendors in popularity. Microsoft held a 3.6 per cent share of the worldwide tablet market in the second quarter of this year, making it the Number 6 vendor with shipments of nearly 1.2 million units, according to IDC. That represents a growth of 48 per cent compared with a year earlier. Apple by comparison was Number 1 inwith a38 per centshare.

Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Pro 7

Microsoft also presented a new laptop and an update to the existing Surface Pro device.

The new Surface Laptop 3 will have an aluminum exterior finish, instant on and a bigger trackpad. The device will be available with a 15-inch screen and fast charging. Panay said the product is three times more powerful than Apples Macbook Air. The devices can be pre-ordered starting Wednesday and will be available October 22 at $999 for the 13-inch and $1,199 for the 15-inch.

Surface Pro 7 laptop   -  Bloomberg


The Surface Pro 7 comes out the same day and starts at $749.

Microsoft’s device revenue topped $6 billion in the year that ended June 30, including Surface units and PC accessories, according to its annual filing. The company uses the devices to attract corporate users to its hardware and programs, while Apple dominates the consumer part of the market, according to Ives.

“While some investors continue to question this investment as good money going after bad endeavors on Surface, we strongly disagree as this remains a mind and market share strategic gamble,” Ives added.

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Published on October 03, 2019
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