This month, Microsoft's Surface Duo smartphone is shipping to customers. Early adopters of the dual-screen Android handset will begin receiving their devices on Sept. 10 after paying $1,399. However, it seems this will only be for users in the United States. Those in other markets may have to wait until 2021 to get the Duo.
Microsoft has not specifically said which markets the Surface Duo is coming to. Instead, the company has taken a vague approach to the roll out, saying it is employing “a measured and phased approach to availability to meet customer demand.”
According to a report from Windows Central, this approach will mean non-US markets won't get the device until 2021. Apparently, Microsoft wants to gauge how US customers take to the device. Early buzz has been strong, and the company is looking to push ahead with H1 2021 release.
It is worth noting the report points out Microsoft's plans are open to change. If demand continues to be high heading into the holiday season, a launch in other markets is possible.
While it's disappointing Microsoft is taking this path, it is somewhat understandable. It's also a dangerous plan.
Firstly, Microsoft is not expecting the Surface Duo to be a bumper seller. It is an expensive, first generation, experimental form factor that is targeting business users. It is not designed to compete with the iPhones and Galaxy S' of the world. It is also arguably not expected to keep pace with Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 sales.
Taking it Slow
Microsoft clearly wants to avoid building too many units and not being able to sell them. When the original Surface tablet arrived with the ill-fated Windows RT in 2012, Microsoft was overly ambitious. Surface sales were close to a failure and the company wrote off nearly $1 billion in inventory.
Wanting to avoid a similar problem, Microsoft is ensuring demand for the Surface Duo is there before committing to building more units.
Still, there's something that could put a bump in this soft approach. Specifically, the Surface Duo is already shipping with year-old specs, including Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855. In terms of pure performance, the Duo will not be a flagship smartphone. By delaying its release to some markets, Microsoft is extending the time those aging specs become more unappealing.
It's an issue the company is obviously aware of. The Surface Duo is being sold as sumptuous piece of hardware and a business tool. Microsoft is making little noise about its specs, even preventing early look reviews from powering up the device. This generation seems to be all about design and feel, which admittedly have been wowing reviewers.
A question is whether customers are willing to wait until H1 2021 for a device that will have specs nearly two years old by that point? Those customers could also be willing to miss out on this generation and wait for the Surface Duo 2.