After giving up on Windows Mobile, Microsoft has finally re-entered the mobile space with an Android phone with a dual-screen and 360-degree hinge. If only this could have been running Windows 8, an operating system that was really well designed for this kind of touch screen two-handed tablet interface.
The Windows 8 Start screen had large easy-to-read live tiles that both provided information (sometimes) and represented an app that you were about to launch. The horizontal scrolling of the start screen made a lot of sense when spanning a horizontally oriented touch screen.
Windows 8 also had a lot of hidden edge gestures that worked really well once you figured them out. The left thumb edge swipe would swap apps instantly. The right edge swipe would reveal the Windows 8 “Charms” toolbar which gave you quick access to system or app-related functions. These two left & right edge gestures made perfect sense if you were holding a tablet like a book as seen in the above photo, since your thumbs were going to be right there at the edge.
Windows 8 also had a split-screen snapping feature that would let you display one app on the left side and another app on the right side of the screen. Since the Surface Duo actually puts a folding hinge down the middle, this would have been pretty perfect for split-screen apps in Windows 8.
Launching a new app would make its rectangular box appear right in the middle of the seam and it would sit there tilting back and forth until you chose which side it should land on.
If you had a full-screen app that you wanted to snap to an edge, you could drag its title bar down from the top and then drag it to the left or right side to snap the app into one half of the screen. Again, this would have been great on the Surface Duo.
There are a lot of things that Windows 8 does better than Android as well. For example, the Surface Duo has very limited input options. It only has a Qwerty keyboard that can exist in one screen panel at a time. There is no split-panel like Windows 8 had, which would have been great for two-handed thumb-typing on a split-screen device like the Surface Duo.
The Surface Duo doesn’t have an ink-based handwriting recognition input panel like Windows 8 did… again, something that would have been very useful on the Surface Duo since it actually supports the Surface pen.
Unlike the Surface Duo, Windows 8’s left, right, top, bottom edge gestures don’t completely change when you rotate the device to a different orientation. The Surface Duo messes this up royally and requires you to learn EVEN MORE non-discoverable gestures when you rotate the device. It’s a hugely unnecessary strain on your cognitive energy compared to Windows 8’s much more simple, yet still non-discoverable, touch gestures.
Can you imagine if the Surface Duo was released in 2012 with Windows 8 instead of the Surface RT? That would have been something!