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Even Bill Gates chose the Samsung Galaxy Fold instead of the Microsoft Surface Duo

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Galaxy Z Fold 4 open and close with stylus Image: Samsung

At its Samsung Unpacked event on Tuesday, Samsung made a case that its new Galaxy Z Fold 4 smartphone is not only the social media dominating, multitasking powerhouse that everyone expects to be a foldable phone, it’s also the ultracapable productivity smartphone that’s also known for being a foldable phone. Microsoft has spent many years. Tried (and mostly unsuccessful) to nail down with your Surface Duo line. Interestingly, he himself did this with the help of Microsoft.

The company aligned with Samsung to bring optimized versions of its full office suite, including Teams and Outlook, to the Fold 4 in formats that take full advantage of all the extra screen real estate and give both companies a dual-screen, multiple- Apps provide experience. Asha can force consumers to leave their laptops at home and work using nothing but their smartphones.

One has to wonder: is the Surface Duo line dead? Has Microsoft just thrown in the towel and helped Samsung fill the grave of yet another failed entry into the smartphone space from Redmond? The answer isn’t as clear as it might seem at first and could very well indicate that Microsoft isn’t ready to give up on its smartphone ambitions for long.

Galaxy Z Fold 4 showing off Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams running on Galaxy Z Fold 4 in Flex Mode.

Image: Samsung

The Partnership That Makes It All Possible

Samsung announced at its Unpacked event on August 10 that it has teamed up with both Google and Microsoft to bring custom-designed versions of those companies’ apps to the Galaxy Z Fold 4 running Android 12L. These special versions of apps like YouTube, Gmail, Word and Teams (seen above) will take full advantage of the extra screen space provided by the tablet-like main display by integrating with the Fold 4’s new taskbar and drag-and-drop features. Providing a PC-like multitasking experience aimed at wooing professional users and engaging engaged consumers.

Samsung Z Fold 4 Presentation

A triple-pan setup shows how the Fold 4 can handle a video call, presentation and note taking simultaneously.

Image: Samsung

In the same way, the partnership with Meta and TikTok produced versions of their social networking and media apps capable of taking advantage of the side-by-side app layout, which is essentially two full-sized ones placed next to each other. Let’s mirror the smartphone. Chatting while gaming on one side or working in two productivity-focused apps simultaneously is now possible thanks to this dual-screen-like layout.

If that dual-screen format sounds familiar, that’s because Microsoft has placed it at the heart of its Surface Duo design philosophy, believing that two discrete displays can best provide users with increased productivity and flexibility. Huh. Our own Mary Jo Foley found the original Duo’s effort to prove this unequaled, and the Duo 2 did little to improve the approach. A few years later, Samsung is making a solid case that dual screen was never the way to go.

Hand holding Galaxy Z Fold 4 showing email inbox

The specially tailored dual-pane layout Microsoft created for the Fold 4’s version of Outlook.

Image: Samsung

Why is Microsoft helping Samsung beat the Duo?

It may seem strange that Microsoft is giving its rival a leg up on the space it is struggling to fill. But it’s not really that uncommon when it comes to smartphones. For many years, people wondered whether Google would eventually alienate Android smartphone makers like Samsung and Motorola by attempting to make Android smartphones of their own.

As it turns out, Google was not able to coexist with its competitors; It could provide a mutual benefit by showing them how to optimize their devices that only the original creator of the Android platform could have developed.

Front and back views of the Microsoft Surface Duo 2

The Surface Duo 2 and its buttoned-up aesthetic.

Image: Microsoft

Does this mean that Microsoft will eventually benefit from the multitasking approaches Samsung is demonstrating here? Possibly. Samsung certainly benefited from Google’s early Nexus smartphones and the design cues they provided. Microsoft will, of course, need to adapt what it developed for the Fold 4’s single screen to the Surface Duo 3’s potentially split display. It doesn’t sound like such a daunting task, but Microsoft has hit the end zone first when it comes to the smartphone space.

For now, multitasking enthusiasts who want a foldable device for working on the go (you know, people like Microsoft founder Bill Gates) can skip waiting to see if Microsoft gets its task together. And just buy one of Samsung’s current offerings. But, can Microsoft still compete with Samsung, when the far more experienced companies in the smartphone sector seem either unwilling or unable to compete with their initial dominance in foldables?

Multiple Surface Duo devices in different configurations Image: Microsoft

Microsoft’s last chance

The Surface Duo line remains unique, but not in a good way. The Duo Foldable’s unusual size, high launch price (which actually went up to $100 with the Duo 2), and novel screen layout have all missed the mark with consumers. Making matters worse is the fact that Microsoft is always a step behind on factors like processor speed, camera quality, and app integration.

If Microsoft can direct user interface development made for Samsung into improvements to the Surface Duo 3, the company has a chance to bring a truly compelling productivity device to market. Sure, it will still have to exude the “for business” aura that holds consumers back from even considering its best products. But, if Microsoft can accomplish this, Bill Gates will actually be using a phone made by the company he founded within a few years. Until then, I’ll bet he’s already got the Galaxy Z Fold 4 on preorder.

If you want to join Bill Gates in my head-canon version of preordering the Fold 4, or any other device Samsung announced at Unpacked 2022, we’ve got you covered with the links below:

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