Microsoft officially delays Surface Neo, dual-screen Windows PCs

Redmond also pledges to accelerate Windows 10 features

Microsoft Surface pre-release in October 2019

Microsoft Surface pre-release in October 2019

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft has officially confirmed that it’s delaying its dual-screen Windows experiences, including the Surface Neo, until “the right moment” arrives.

That announcement was part of a blog post in which Panos Panay, the new chief product officer of Windows and Devices, laid out his vision of what he sees for Microsoft’s Windows 10 and related hardware programs.

In some sense, the blog post announcing the changes reads like a recap of what we already know: The Windows 10 May 2020 Update will begin shipping to the general public this month; Microsoft is turning its Build conference into a free, online-only event; and the vendor is postponing its own dual-screen devices.

Microsoft had only internally communicated the latter choice internally, according to a recent ZDNet report. That report said Panay had indicated that the pandemic had prompted Microsoft to refocus its priorities on single-screen devices.

Credit: Microsoft

On Monday, Panay confirmed this, and offered more insight into Microsoft’s rationale for adjusting its strategy.

“The world is a very different place than it was last October when we shared our vision for a new category of dual-screen Windows devices,” he wrote. “As we continue to put customers’ needs at the forefront, we need to focus on meeting customers where they are now.”

That means that Microsoft will “pivot our focus toward single-screen Windows 10X devices that leverage the power of the cloud to help our customers work, learn, and play in new ways,” Panay wrote.

“These single-screen devices will be the first expression of Windows 10X that we deliver to our customers, and we will continue to look for the right moment, in conjunction with our OEM partners, to bring dual-screen devices to market.”

Based on his phrasing, that essentially means that Microsoft is delaying the Surface Neo, which was originally scheduled to ship in 2020. Windows 10X, which simplified the Windows experience and stretched the experience across two screens, will now emphasise the “simple” rather than the two screens. Microsoft’s Windows 10X emulator recently added a single-screen experience.

Focusing the delay on “dual-screen Windows devices” also suggests that Microsoft may still ship the Surface Duo, a dual-screen Android phone, on time.

It appears that you won’t be seeing this dual-screen view in Windows 10X hardware anytime soonCredit: Microsoft
It appears that you won’t be seeing this dual-screen view in Windows 10X hardware anytime soon

The future of Windows 10

More subtly, Panay also indicated that Microsoft may be gearing up to add more new features to Windows 10. We've already reviewed the Windows 10 May 2020 Update, due to roll out sometime this month, so we know that Microsoft updated features like the Windows Subsystem for Linux and Cortana without adding new functionality.

“The May 2020 Update is just the first step,” Panay wrote. “As a team, we are committed to delivering meaningful innovation in ways that matter most to the billion people around the world relying on Windows right now.

"That is why, in this holiday and the next, we are going to accelerate innovation in Windows 10 to ensure that Windows devices are the best way to work, learn and play. We are going to make important improvements in every one of those areas.”

What those improvements are, and when they’ll arrive, aren’t known. Microsoft has wrestled with the tension between enterprises and some consumers, some of which have argued for fewer, less frequent changes and thus potential bugs. Others have welcomed new additions, feeling that Windows 10 has grown stale.

Interestingly, Panay highlighted some of the lesser-known additions to the Windows 10 May 2020 Update: the improved tablet experience, drag-and-drop functionality to the Eye Control gaze tracker, and the additional kaomoji to the Windows keyboard. We’ll have to see if those types of features are the new additions Panay will champion going forward.

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Mark Hachman

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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