Hindsight, pt 2: Windows 10 Mobile and UWP on a dual screened device (video)

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A few weeks ago I penned 'In hindsight... Microsoft really should have stuck with Windows for Surface Duo', pointing out that the crossover between trendy consumer Android applications and an enterprise/productivity-centric dual screen device is very small indeed. And to try and make this point more visually I’ve gone down the (ahem) slightly jeuvenile route of physically taping two Windows 10 Mobile phones together and videoing the result. I know, I know, rather cheesy. But my video embedded below makes the point. If this form factor had been released running the Windows and UWP apps you love, wouldn't you have dipped into your wallet?

See what you think, anyway. Obviously this Gaffa-tape monstrosity doesn't go any further than the 'rough mockup' stage, but it gives a feel for the Duo in Windows guise. And, I have to say, I rather liked it!

Also obviously, the one thing I can't mock-up convincingly(!) is a UWP application spanning both screens. You'll spot the joins in the video above! But I've done enough to give the general idea.

From my earlier feature:

In theory, Surface Duo gains all the benefits of being an Android smartphone in that applications like Snapchat and TikTok are available and work, even if not particularly optimised. Whereas these would be missing in action on a Windows 10 Mobile or even Windows 10X device. But come on, is there much crossover between trendy consumer social media and a dual-screen productivity vision? I don't think so. In which case the Duo could very well run Windows, fitting in better with Microsoft's other Surface devices in terms of strategy and OS. Plus there would have been the not inconsiderable weight of Windows 10 Mobile users upgrading from the likes of the Lumia 950 range.

Windows 10 Mobile was already 'Windows 10 on ARM', remember. Which is why enthusiasts have been able to so readily hack Windows 10X and WoA variants onto the venerable Lumia 950 XL. The OS and hardware platforms were already halfway 'there'.

Of course, there's the challenge of adapting any OS to run equally well on two displays - Windows 10 Mobile was resolutely (at the time) single screen, but it did have all the Continuum technology and all UWP applications were able to resize their interfaces to whichever display size they found themselves running on. So I don't think adapting Windows 10 Mobile to the Duo form factor was an insurmountable problem - heck, even Microsoft had this as their plan for several years internally.

Windows 10X was announced in 2019 for dual screen devices, in the form of the Surface Neo, but this has kept being pushed back and we've yet to see this in action. But the OS itself (effectively Windows 10 reimagined for multiple chip platforms without any of the legacy Win32 code) was designed for form factors like the Duo/Neo from day one, so clearly there's no great problem there.

Yet Microsoft chose to turn to Android, desiring the long tail of almost infinite applications in the Play Store over a more focussed Microsoft/Windows-centric approach and damn the app selection. I've thought all along that Microsoft could have made the latter work. A Windows-powered Surface Duo would certainly have stood out more in a sea of thousands of Android smartphones, all with dramatically better value propositions than the Duo.

And ironically, the very aspects which Zac complains about - the lack of security updates and the underwhelming desktop extension system, would both have been addressed within Windows by definition. In terms of security and kernel updates, even Lumias were receiving these right up until the end of support with almost zero effort by Microsoft. And Continuum would have done an even better job at extending operation to a nearby desktop or monitor than the slightly janky Your Phone system, I contend.

I stand by all this. In 2021 we have the Surface Duo now available in the UK and a few other markets, but at eye-gougingly crazy prices. If the device was going to be an over-priced oddball anyway, Microsoft, why the flippin' heck couldn't you have stuck with Windows, so that at least it was an over-priced oddball that appealed to existing (pro-Windows, anti-Google, perhaps) enthusiasts? As it is, sales will be near zero. Which is disappointing for us, and also for Microsoft.

Methinks a wrong decision was made three years ago. But comments welcome on my crude dual screen mock-up!!