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Microsoft isn't making another Windows phone for one simple reason

"Doyle Cornwall" (2020-04-24)


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In a twist nobody expected, the Surface Duo will run on Android.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Microsoft did something unexpected in launching the Surface Duo, a phone with two screens that fold around a hinge down the middle. After two years completely out of the phone game, Microsoft is ready to try again -- just not with its own software running the show. Instead, the Surface Duo will run on Android, a former rival OS. 

In doing so, Microsoft is leaning into the old adage: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. (Here's every Surface Duo spec we know, and all the ones we don't.)

"We are embracing customers where they are and building on technology they use with benefits only Microsoft can bring. We are building on top of Android, just as we've built on top of Chromium in our Edge browser, to give our customers the best of both companies," a company spokesperson said in an email to CNET.








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Although the Surface Duo won't arrive for a full year -- holiday 2020, in fact -- Microsoft's new hardware represents a renewed interest in a lucrative category that Microsoft all but swore off. Joining the conversation about phones with double the usual screen size, like the foldable Galaxy Fold, puts Microsoft in a position to become relevant to a topic of growing interest.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Surface Duo could augur a future phone that runs on its new Windows 10X OS, furniture assembly just like the other device Microsoft announced on Wednesday, the dual-screen Surface Neo. The Neo is, after all, basically a larger Surface Duo that doesn't make calls, so the foundation for Windows software is there. (Note that the Neo has a different processor inside and works with a magnetic keyboard.) 

But Microsoft has assured CNET that it's sticking with Android and has no plans to make a Windows-based phone.