What the Surface Duo 2 says about Microsoft’s ambitions in the smartphone market

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September has been a busy month in the tech calendar, and this week saw two big developments: Apple’s iPhone 13 finally hit stores around the world, including India, and Microsoft hosted its fall event. showcasing Surface-branded devices, including the Surface Duo 2. No matter how exciting the Surface Duo 2’s looks, industry experts and technical journalists have scrutinized a rather moderate approach that Microsoft has taken with its return to the smartphone market.

But what path is Microsoft taking to register its presence in the phone segment, and how does the Surface Duo 2 fit into its roadmap to create a futuristic dual-screen device. We explain.

Surface Duo 2 is presented as a phone

When the original Surface Duo launched last year, Microsoft didn’t call the device a phone, even though it did function much like a smartphone. This is because the Duo is different from a smartphone with a traditional slab-like design. But things already look a little different this time around with Microsoft clearly presenting the Surface Duo as a legitimate phone. “We designed this phone for people who love power, speed and beauty,” said Shilpa Ranganathan, CVP, Mobile and Cross Device Experiences at Microsoft during the presentation of the Second Generation Duo. This shift in perspective and the way the Surface Duo 2 is now marketed mirrors how the previous strategy of calling the dual-screen device which is a tablet and phone in one hasn’t worked well with consumers. . It also shows that Microsoft admits that the original Duo had a lot of tradeoffs and calling it a real smartphone wasn’t the best idea.

There are several ways to use the Surface Duo 2. (Image credit: Microsoft)

The original Surface Duo was a flop

Whether Microsoft admits it or not, the first-gen Surface Duo was a business failure. In September 2020, the Surface Duo went on sale in the United States for a price of $ 1,400 (or around Rs 103,665 excluding local taxes). Within months the price started to drop and the premium device was available for as low as $ 549 (around Rs 40,651) on a popular ecommerce platform. In less than a year on the market, drastic price drops indicate that the Surface Duo has met with mixed reception from consumers. While successive price drops are history, the device itself has come under criticism; it came with dated hardware, the camera did not fit high end phones and the buggy software issue annoyed a lot of them. There had also been complaints about the build quality, which resulted in some feedback.

Microsoft, Surface Duo 2, Surface Duo, Microsoft Surface Duo, Surface Duo dual screen, Android Surface Duo, Panos Panay Microsoft Support for 5G and the triple rear camera system make the Surface Duo 2 a much better smartphone. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Surface Duo 2 resolves some of the complaints

While reviews are yet to be released, the second-gen Surface Duo appears to be a much more refined device. The new model may feature the same design as last year’s device, with two separate screens connected by a hinge, as opposed to a foldable screen seen on the Galaxy Z Fold 3. But improvements have been made in all of them. corners like the double 5.8- inch AMOLEDs are a bit bigger than 5.6 inch screens, they are now slightly curved which means less space between screens; they also support a 90Hz refresh rate, a Glance Bar strip for notifications, support for 5G, NFC for mobile payments, stereo speakers, and the latest Snapdragon 888 platform.

Perhaps a great feature that is a welcome change is an improved camera package. In fact, there are three of them on the Duo 2: af / 1.7 12MP telephoto lens, af / 2.4 12MP wide lens, and a third 16MP ultra-wide camera, with optical image stabilization. There is night mode, portrait mode, and HDR, and it can record up to 60 frames per second in 4K and record in slow motion. It will be available in 128 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB models and all will have 8 GB of RAM. The device also works with Microsoft’s Slim Pen 2 which magnetically charges with the Duo 2 when in a Duo 2 charging case.

Microsoft, Surface Duo 2, Surface Duo, Microsoft Surface Duo, Surface Duo dual screen, Android Surface Duo, Panos Panay Microsoft The Surface Duo 2 can be used as a portable Nintendo 3D-style gaming device, thanks to the secondary display. (Image credit: Microsoft)

The concept of dual screens is not new … but Microsoft is right

While the hardware is totally refreshed, Microsoft is still sticking with dual screens and worked with Google again on the Duo 2. Sure, a foldable screen is superior to a dual screen, but that whole device premise dual-screen makes a lot of sense. For example, if you are a brand’s social media manager, you can open Facebook and Twitter at the same time on two different screens. This approach is seamless and while you can multitask on the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the experience is not at this level.

On Duo 2, there is no process as such and the interaction feels natural. Opening two apps at the same time doesn’t suffer from an odd aspect ratio, and with the Fold, many Android apps aren’t optimized for the foldable screen. With the Duo, this problem does not exist. The Duo is also great for specific use cases, like when you need to drag content from one screen to another. On a regular phone, you’ll have to swipe between apps.

Microsoft, Surface Duo 2, Surface Duo, Microsoft Surface Duo, Surface Duo dual screen, Android Surface Duo, Panos Panay Microsoft The Lumia 950 series. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft’s track record in the telephony market is questionable

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer poked fun at the iPhone when it debuted in 2007, saying United States today, “There is no way the iPhone will gain significant market share. No chance. ”This flippant attitude from Ballmer was a big mistake that cost the Redmond tech giant the lucrative mobile market. Years later, in an interview with Indian express, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates called the company’s strategy to dominate the mobile market a “missed opportunity.”

Microsoft is not new to the telephony market. In fact, at one point he tried to use all kinds of tricks to tackle Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iPhone, but failed to dominate the market. of the mobile. In early 2010, when Android started making inroads into the mobile market, Microsoft announced Windows Phone. While the iPhone was aimed at the high end of the market and the Android operating system was literally free to all manufacturers, Microsoft not only struggled to find hardware manufacturers, but also struggled. to convince developers to write applications for its platform without users. To fight against both Apple and Google, Microsoft went so far as to acquire Nokia’s mobile business for 5.44 billion euros ($ 6.6 billion) in 2013 but still lost the bet. This failure resulted in a write-off of $ 7.2 billion in 2015, a major setback for the company.

Microsoft, Surface Duo 2, Surface Duo, Microsoft Surface Duo, Surface Duo dual screen, Android Surface Duo, Panos Panay Microsoft Panos Panay, Microsoft Product Manager responsible for Windows and Surface. Panay leads the Surface team. (Image credit: Microsoft)

What is Microsoft’s mobile strategy and why is the Surface Duo 2 the sprite?

Under the leadership of current CEO Satya Nadella, Redmond is taking calculating steps to develop its mobile strategy. Instead of taking on Apple in the consumer smartphone market, Microsoft is in no rush to take market share or develop a product that goes with the iPhone. Microsoft’s strategy, as is evident with the Surface Duo 2, is not to drive out the already saturated market for iPhone and Android smartphones from Chinese phone makers, but to create a new type of “mobile device” that could become the default phone form factor in the future. All of this reflects how Microsoft chose the Surface team to design and develop the Surface Duo and not create another vertical within the company. The Surface line consists of limited but high-end products that have been successful in the market and have succeeded in creating new form factors like the Surface Pro. Clearly, the Surface Duo line is not for everyone; it’s a niche, ultra-premium, and targets executive-level users who don’t mind spending $ 1,500 (the high-end Duo 2 model costs $ 1,800) on a dual-screen phone.

The limited availability of the Surface Duo 2 in North America, Western Europe, and Japan shows that the company always finds the right customer base that will resonate the most with a device like this. Unlike Apple which is working with telecom carriers to become more aggressive with deals and deals on the iPhone 13 series, Microsoft is taking the completely opposite direction and instead of looking for targeted segments that might be suitable for the Surface Duo 2 for now. .

Sony is another niche player who uses the same strategy to build a reputation and ensure that the creative community and “pro” level customers take notice of its flagship Xperia 1 III or Xperia Pro. Ditching mainstream appeal and developing smartphones for creative types seems to have worked for the Japanese giant which recently saw its mobile division turn profitable for the first time in years.


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