For years, we’ve been talking about folding Surface devices and the possibilities therein, and today, Microsoft finally delivered on all of those rumors. We now have the Surface Neo tablet, powered by Windows 10X, and the Surface Duo phone, powered by Android.
During the event, Microsoft showcased various ways you could use these devices in a productivity context, explaining that they’re announcing them a year ahead of their Holiday 2020 launch window to bring developers along for the ride. Office, side-by-side browsing and typing, and multi-app multi-tasking were demonstrated on stage, but the Surface team snuck a little bit of Xbox in there as well.
During the Neo/Duo teaser trailer, we saw Project xCloud Xbox game streaming running on the dual-screen display, showcasing Microsoft’s upcoming APIs that allows developers to make bespoke touch experiences for their games. While today, you need an Xbox Bluetooth controller and a janky aftermarket clip to play xCloud on your phone effectively, in the future, developers will be able to leverage special APIs that detect when a game is streaming to a small-screen device, and bring up the necessary controls to make it work. That also includes folding devices.
When folded out, as we’ve previously speculated, the Surface Duo would gain touch commands for Project xCloud on the lower portion of the screen, creating an experience extremely similar to that of a Nintendo 3DS of yesteryear.
The possibilities here are enormous for both Microsoft and developers, as it will bring high-fidelity console gaming to small-screen, low-power mobile devices, streamed over the cloud, rather than requiring the use of local compute. You won’t even need an Xbox controller either, in the future, simply unfold your device, and play. It might not be the best experience for a twitchy shooter like Call of Duty, but as we’ve seen from Fortnite on mobile and the popularity of the Nintendo 3DS, many games can be played effectively this way.
Hopefully we’ll hear more about the Surface Neo/Duo gaming possibilities in the near future.