Microsoft Neo – a Windows folding tablet
Microsoft surprised the tech world today with the announcement of an in-development product at their Surface event. The Surface Neo is a dual-screen tablet running a specialized version of Windows tailored to take advantage of the two displays.
Design and Displays
The device folds open like a typical clamshell laptop to reveal the two 9-inch touch displays. When unfolded, the Neo is a mere 5.6 mm thin. The tablet is also fairly light at 655 grams. Microsoft claims the Neo uses the “thinnest LCD ever created” to slim down as much as possible, and the Neo uses Gorilla Glass to protect the panel.
We did note that the screens are not OLED, at least in their current state. Given the tech industry’s proclivity for OLED panels, this may be a criticism if the final product only uses LCDs, especially considering Neo will be cooking for over a year.
The displays can fold a full 360-degrees around, allowing users to use the Neo in a variety of orientations. The hinges are also robust enough to hold a display up at an angle, like a traditional laptop, while the other rests flat on a surface.
Accessories – Pen and Keyboard
The revamped Surface Pen can mount to the Neo’s back, seemingly by magnets, for storage and charging. There’s also a new keyboard for the Neo that also attaches to the back of one of the screens. This keyboard can flip around and set on the bottom display in landscape orientation.
When placed, this keyboard prompts the Neo to display a context menu above it. In the demonstration today, the upper half of the bottom display became filled with Emojis and GIFs that could be inserted into a message, sort of like a tall TouchBar from Apple’s MacBook Pro line.
The keyboard can also slide up to the top of the display, which prompts a trackpad-like section to appear underneath the keyboard. This is a nice feature, but touchscreens usually offer far less accurate tracking than a standard trackpad.
Considering the device’s small form factor and touch-centric design, though, this shouldn’t present much of a problem.
Software – Windows 10X
According to Microsoft, the Neo is compatible with all Windows apps, including Outlook and MS Office, but the device runs a customized version of Windows. Dubbed Windows 10X, the new flavor of Redmond’s operating system is built around the two displays.
As such, Microsoft states that Windows 10X can take full advantage of the form factor; sliding an app from one screen to another looks reasonably smooth, and apps look to be able to fill both displays at once. Microsoft also demonstrated a “picture-in-picture” type feature that will allow users to binge their favorite Netflix series in a small pop-out on one screen while (presumably) getting some work done on the other.
Conclusion and Release Date
The Surface Neo is still a concept at this point. While a few working models were used during the demonstration, Microsoft said that the Neo won’t be ready until at least the 2020 Holiday season. The company said they announced Neo so early because they want to take fans and developers along on the journey through development and on to delivery.