Microsoft’s announcement of two twin-screened Surface devices in October 2019 was a bold move, especially as the hardware was not going on sale for twelve months. It means partners can work on similar projects and work on software and development tools without risking a leak of the core product.
It also means that Microsoft has to be confident that the hardware choices for the product will be ready and robust in 2020. Given the Surface Duo and Surface Neo are foldable devices, did Microsoft ever consider a fully flexible screen that curved inwards?
From the latest published documents, that looks like the case.
The Microsoft Corp. Surface Neo laptop computer is displayed during a product event in New York, … [+]
© 2019 Bloomberg Finance LP
Reported on by Windows Latest, the patent, simply titled ‘Hinged Device’ talks of a device with two sections and a flexible screen that covers both sections. Practically this is how many of the current and upcoming foldable phones have approached the problem, be they styled like a flip phone (such as the Motorola Razr) or a folding tablet (see the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X).
Of course anyone watching the launch of Microsoft’s dual screened Surface devices will see that the Redmond-based company has decided against the complexity of a flexing screen (at least in this iteration) in favour of two screens either side of a 360 degree hinge.
This strikes me as a pragmatic approach. Not only will Microsoft be launching new hardware, the models will be running new operating systems (Windows 10X in the case of the Surface Neo and Android in the Surface Duo). That’s going to be a tall order for Microsoft’s software engineers over multiple departments, but presumably one that the company feels can be achieved.
Adding in the hardware challenge of a flexible screen on top of supporting two screens in software – especially after the significant number of issues experienced by smartphone manufacturers with flexing screens in the retail space.
It should not come as surprise that Microsoft has been working on a flexible screen along with other manufacturers. Neither should it come as a surprise that Microsoft has decided to go with a solution that is practical and proven instead of a more edgy solution that still feels like a concept. While the Surface range is seen as Microsoft leading the way in terms of design and function, it is not known for conceptual hardware.
No doubt a flexible screen is on its way, but with the one year lead time between the reveal and the launch of the folding Surface devices, Microsoft is focusing on software, rather than hardware, as the key innovation,