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It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Microsoft will be using its own Microsoft Launcher as the basis of the Surface Duo’s interface. Not only has Microsoft been updating and perfecting this powerful app over many years, it allows the Surface Duo’s key feature – the dual displays – to be easily integrated into the launcher. Windows Latest reports:
“Microsoft Launcher will be the soul of the Surface Duo and the company recently implemented a new landscape mode in Microsoft Launcher, which could make for a better tablet experience and allow Surface Duo to take advantage of its dual-screen real estate.
“Microsoft is working on another new feature called ‘app groups’, which would be very similar to the Samsung App Pair on Galaxy and Note lineup.”
One of the expected features is the ability to launch multiple apps with a single touch – the aforementioned app group – which would launch multiple apps over the multiple screen format that will typify the Surface Duo. That could be opening up a traffic map and your diary, Instagram and your photo gallery, OneNote and email, or whatever combination works for you.
Unlike the commits that Microsoft has made to the Android project, these tweaks are to its own code. The launcher is available as a free download for any Android device. Assuming that other dual screened Android hardware will be released, the launcher should work with those devices, and if they don’t you can be sure that Microsoft will work on an update pretty quickly.
Although there’s nothing stopping Microsoft porting these features into the Android open sounce project, unlike the commits regarding the Chromium web browser, the majority of manufacturers use their own UI layer and launcher on their handsets, or use Android One which uses Google’s own launcher. It’s one reason why Microsoft’s own launcher has been an interesting project to follow. Not only does it give Microsoft’s cloud a place on Android (with over ten million downloads, that’s a lot of home screens), it has given Microsoft a lot of experience and feedback on how people use their Android devices.
No doubt these lessons will be reflected in the Surface Duo. The dual-screened Android device has been marketed as going on sale in “the holidays 2020”, but there are some signs it may launch ion the next four to six weeks.