Microsoft won’t release the Surface Neo (opens in new tab) dual-screen device or its accompanying operating system Windows 10X (opens in new tab) this year, as the coronavirus pandemic shifts the company’s focus.
According to ZDNet (opens in new tab), people familiar with Microsoft's plans report that Microsoft’s chief product officer Panos Panay told his team that the company wouldn’t be producing its own dual-screen devices this year. Nor will Microsoft enable third-party dual-screen devices to ship with WIndows 10X, a rejigged version of the company’s operating system designed specifically for devices with two built-in displays.
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The change of plans seems to be related to the chaos caused by the global spread of COVID-19. With the virus seeing more people working from home, Microsoft’s Teams communications software has surged in popularity.
As a result, the company looks like it’s committing to that side of the business, and according to the person familiar with the matter, Microsoft aims to get Windows 10X running well on a single screen first. That might seem a bit odd given that Windows 10X targets dual-screen devices. But the software also works as a more modular take on Windows 10, meaning it could run on devices that don’t have a lot of power or large single-screen space to play with.
You could arguably think of Windows 10X as something akin to Chrome OS, potentially paving the way for the creation of cheaper, Chromebook-like Windows 10 devices only without the lack of app support and capabilities of the much-criticized Windows 10 S.
There’s no indication that the phone-like Microsoft Surface Duo, which also has dual displays but runs a heavily-skinned version of Android, will also be delayed.
Last year, we briefly spoke to Panay about the Surface Duo - who was using one at the time - and he told us that the device’s design was pretty much finalized and to expect it to arrive late 2020. This was a good five months before the coronavirus epidemic became a pandemic, so Microsoft’s plans for the Surface Duo might have changed significantly as it has been forced to adjust.
The Surface Neo and Surface Duo both looked set to be some of the most interesting Microsoft devices of the year beyond the Xbox Series X (opens in new tab). So hearing that a least one of the dual-screen Surfaces might be delayed is disappointing. And for developers who’ve been working at getting apps ready for Windows 10X by using an emulator (opens in new tab), the delay could hit even harder.