Microsoft Readies Half-Phone, Half-Tablet Surface Duo for Release Next Month

The Surface Duo, designed as both a mobile phone and a pocket-sized computer for using Microsoft 365 and Android applications, will be released on Sept. 10 in the U.S. market, Microsoft announced Wednesday.

The device -- with a steep starting price of $1,399 -- is currently available for preorders by U.S. users via the online Microsoft Store, as well as through AT&T and Best Buy.

It's an Android-Based PC
It turns out that the Surface Duo, first described back in October as a dual-screen computer that can make phone calls, runs on the Android 10 Linux operating system. Possibly, that OS got customized for Microsoft by software company Movial.

The use of the Android 10 OS seems to be a switch from Microsoft's declaration back in October that the Surface Duo would run on the Windows 10X operating system. Back then, Windows 10X was said to be an OS that was "building upon Android."

However, Microsoft later indicated in May that Windows 10X would be marketed to single-screen devices going forward. At that time, Microsoft did not mention that the Surface Duo would switch to using Android 10.

The Surface Duo, using Android 10, can simultaneously run different software programs on its two separate screens, which can fold out to a single 8.1-inch screen, if wanted. The screens share a common "360-degree hinge" with internal cables that gives options in orienting the device.

It's a 4G Mobile Phone
The Surface Duo will act as a phone if the mobile service provider offering a wireless subscription plan supports its eSIM card. "Not all carriers support eSIM," Microsoft noted in Footnote 12 of the Surface Duo's tech specs. The device also comes with a Nano SIM card.

Microsoft's announcement indicated that the "Surface Duo will work on AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless networks" in the United States. The Surface Duo supports LTE, a 4G wireless technology.

The device also supports Wi-Fi-5 (802.11ac) for wireless hotspot connections. It has Bluetooth 5.0 support for connecting to wireless devices, but it lacks near-field communication support.

Surface Duo for Business
Microsoft is selling consumer and business versions of the Surface Duo. The Microsoft Surface landing page includes links to both options. There's a search page for organizations looking for Surface resellers.

Microsoft is touting the use of Microsoft Intune to manage Surface Duo devices, per a Surface IT pro blog post, but they can be managed by any mobile device management service. Surface Duo devices use a Unified Extensible Firmware Interface that was custom-built by Microsoft, giving it "full control over firmware components," which helps Microsoft assure device security. IT pros can find technical documentation on the Surface Duo at this page.

While the Surface Duo can't run Windows 10 applications, Microsoft is promoting the use of its Windows Virtual Desktop service with the device for organizations. The Windows Virtual Desktop service, an extra subscription cost, offers the "option of connecting to a full Windows 10 experience" via remote access to Microsoft's servers.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.