As Microsoft prepares to launch the Surface Duo, the world is about to see Microsoft’s implementation of Android on one of its flagship devices.
Panos Panay and his team have worked hard since its introduction in October last year to prepare the ground for the Duo, but there is a certain inevitability that “this isn’t Windows, Android has won!” will be heard.
The problem with that view is that Microsoft has already been working with Android for many years and the move to bringing out its own Android device is the next logical step.
Aug 3 update: Thanks to its dual screen design, the Surface Duo has the potential to run Android apps in a number o different environments; part of a single screen, filling a single screen, or spread over two screens (and these could be portrait or landscape).
Windows Latest notes how Microsoft is adding to Android to make this process easier for app developers:
“In addition, Microsoft is also making it easier for developers to optimize their apps for the dual-screen experience. For instance, developers can use “helper class” to determine the state of the device, such as the hinge area, and Surface Duo can also detect when and whether the app is spanned across both screens to control within the app options.
Surface Duo allows apps to respond to events like spanning or unspanning to change the app layout accordingly.”Recommended For You
In the short term this clearly helps Microsoft, but in the longer term these code hooks are available to every manufacturer looking to make multi-screen device.
First of all, the Surface Duo as a device is a pretty radical Android device. Not only does it take on the current fashionable trend of dual-screened devices allowing shared screen multitasking, it also does it in a practical way. The foldable screens seen in Samsung’s Galaxy Fold and Huawei’s Mate Xs are right on the bleeding edge, but they drive up the cost and complexity of those devices.
The Surface Duo’s approach of having two separate screens connected by a 360 degree rotating hinge is a compromise, but it’s a compromise that potentially turns the Surface Duo away from a concept device showing technical prowess to a high-end workhorse for daily use.
Then there’s Microsoft’s support for its cloud based services with iOS and Android. A quick search of Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store will show you smartphone apps for Microsoft properties; including Office365, OneDrive, and Outlook.
Microsoft has clearly acknowledged that the core OS for highly mobile devices is no longer a hill to die on. Instead, value can be found in being the provider of the services used on these devices.
That’s certainly the case for me. My personal smartphones all use Outlook as the primary email client, and I feel at home in Microsoft’s Android launcher (not least because I can back up my shortcuts, widgets, and layout to the cloud so I can have my favored layout on a new device.
Much as the Surface Go and Surface Laptop are devices that are mobile, they are not mobile devices.
The Surface Duo breaks new ground for Microsoft, and by using Android, it does not have to reinvent the wheel. It already has well-tested applications, hooks into its cloud, and a mobile OS that has proven itself. Microsoft is extending its proficiency with Android by using Android itself.
Finally, there’s Microsoft’s approach to reshaping Android. Redmond’s developers have being contributing to the open source code at the heart of Android that improves the OS for all.
This is not totally altruistic; after all there needs to be support for multi-screened devices across the Android platform, and the work on improving the Chromium web browser engine carries over to the Edge browser on mobile and desktop.
Microsoft is both leveraging and shaping Android, so it should come as no surprise that it is using Android on one of its key Surface devices.
Originally published at Forbes