The boss of Microsoft’s Surface devices says the company does not call its new Surface Duo a phone because that is a “limiting word”.
Microsoft unveiled the phone-sized Duo — which has two 5.6-inch screens on a 360-degree hinge which can make and receive phone calls — at an event last week.
Not due to go on sale until the end of next year, Microsoft noticeably steered clear of calling the device a phone during its unveiling.
Speaking to The Vergecast podcast, Microsoft chief product officer Panos Panay said this had been an intentional move. “I feel like ‘phone’ is such a limiting word,” he said. “And then you say, ‘well, smartphone’. I don’t even know what that means. And then phablet. I’m not sure what that is.
“But everything has an identifying factor to it. Even when we started Surface, people are like, ‘So it’s a tablet’. I’m like, ‘It’s not a tablet. It’s just not a tablet. It’s a Surface’. I don’t know what to say. And you want to categorise it, and put it there.”
Microsoft’s line of Surface devices are considered “two-in-one” devices, combining a touchscreen tablet with the processing power and, when a keyboard is attached, the setup of a laptop.
Panay argued that Microsoft had success by purposely placing the Surface as a different category of device to either a laptop or a tablet when it launched, and the Duo would follow the same path.
“I think if you’re going to create a new category, you’re going to try to change things, push things forward,” he said. “The minute you put it in a box, I think you’re lost. So, I’ve been pretty resistant to that. Not because it doesn’t act like a great phone.”
During the device unveiling, Panay described the Duo as the first Surface “you can put in your pocket”.
Microsoft has not released a mobile phone since 2016, when it appeared to give up on the category amid intense pressure from Apple and the wide range of phones running Google’s Android operating system.
The new Duo is one half of Microsoft’s new category of dual-screen, folding Surface devices.
It will go on sale next year alongside the Surface Neo, a larger version of the same device, complete with two screens in a folding design.