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Microsoft's hardware has slowly carved out a place for itself in the enterprise, and it recently announced its latest tablet, the Surface Duo, which forgoes Windows' own OSes and runs Google Android OS.
Microsoft announced these new mobile devices that run the stable and widely adopted Android during its Ignite conference back in October 2019.
While it's unclear how enterprise organizations and business users will respond to this latest marriage of a small form-factor device in the Surface line and one of the most popular mobile device OSes, but organizations should evaluate the benefits of a Windows Surface-Android partnership and determine if it has a place in the enterprise.
Surface Duo Android device specs and foldable appeal
The Microsoft Surface Duo is a foldable, dual-screen device set to go to market late 2020, and it is the latest in Microsoft's line of Surface mobile devices.
The device includes two screens that are 5.6-inch displays that combine for an 8.3-inch full screen. When folded, the device fits neatly in a user's hand, despite the larger display, which is one of the benefits of foldable devices.
Users can interface with the device in several different configurations; the first and likely most popular configuration is a fully open device, which offers its users an 8.3-inch split-screen display. The other display configuration is when the device is folded and functions more like a standard Android mobile device with the single display.
The appeal of foldable devices is their additional screen size without sacrificing the mobility of traditional smartphone-sized devices. Samsung was the first to attempt a foldable mobile device, called the Galaxy Fold, but it had major screen issues and was quickly pushed to the side. This failure did not stop other vendors, like Huawei, Oppo, Motorola and now Microsoft, from delivering a device that is similar to the Galaxy Fold but without some of the hardware issues that Samsung faced. Eventually, Samsung resumed development and now offers a foldable device as well.
The Windows Surface Android capabilities can help both companies
When Microsoft reentered the tablet market with its Surface line in 2012, more than a decade after its initial attempts with the Tablet PC, the market was already crowded by the likes of Dell, HP, Lenovo, Apple and other major hardware players.
Initially, few analysts predicted the success that Microsoft has seen building and selling its own hardware. However, many enterprise-level Microsoft customers were willing to take a chance, and the Surface line quickly gained traction and became a popular line of tablets. Though the Windows Surface Duo deviates from the traditional Surface line, the trust and brand recognition will help the buy-in of enterprise customers.
Microsoft didn't have to think long and hard about who it should partner with to give its customers a stable OS that provides access to thousands of apps that can enable mobile productivity.
The Windows Surface-Android partnership is a bet that the mobile OS that runs on over 74% of all mobile devices will appeal to customers of Google software and Microsoft Surface hardware. Customers that are willing to make the jump to a new hardware platform but want to avoid potential failures of a new Microsoft mobile OS can opt for Microsoft hardware and OS consistency with the Surface Duo.
Organizations that provide their end users with company-owned mobile devices must have the ability to manage their devices with a mobile device management or enterprise mobility management platform. Given the Windows Surface Android compatibility the Duo provides, IT will be able to manage the device with most existing enterprise-grade mobility management tools. IT can implement additional safeguards, such as encryption, and ensure the protection of the data through such platforms and tools.
Despite the appeal that the Surface Duo-Android partnership and the dual-screen, foldable nature of the device offers, it lacks a rear camera, which could be a barrier to entry for some mobile users. This may change in the near future, however, because Microsoft still has time to make changes to the final hardware design.