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Microsoft Mobile

by Bill Ahern on tags: surface duo, mobile, Microsoft Launcher, Edge Chromium
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After the announcement at the Microsoft Surface event on October 2nd of this year, one thing was very clear to me: my patience was rewarded. Kind of.

I had started, and did not complete, a series on switching to Windows 10 Mobile when I bought my Lumia 950 XL. I loved that phone and I stand by my assertion, even now, that Windows 10 Mobile was a great OS. Just like the Zune, Windows 10 Mobile got a bad reputation mostly by entering very late into a market where mostly everyone had already established their preference. I stayed with that phone for over a year, until Microsoft finally announced that it was no longer supporting the OS. So back to Android I went. But rumors of a Surface phone weren't far behind. We even covered a bit of it on the podcast. Rumors would flair up, and then simmer down.

Two weeks ago Microsoft announced the Surface Duo. They don't want you to call it a phone. It's the Surface Phone, make no mistake. And I couldn't be happier. Microsoft announced that they have been working with Google on a custom version of Android just for this device, which I assume is to accommodate the dual screens. Now, instead of Microsoft trying to compete in a mobile marketplace that is essentially a duopoly, they'll focus on putting the software where the people are. They'd already started back in 2017, when they announced the "Microsoft Edition" of the Samsung Galaxy S8.

I've got to wait for over a year but, in the meantime, I'm going to return to that experiment I mentioned. I have a Pixel 2 XL, and while I like the Pixel launcher, I figured I would revisit the excellent Microsoft Launcher. In addition to a bunch of great features and customizations, it allows me to get back to the Windows environment on a mobile device. Also included with the Launcher is the Timeline, which is a great way to persist any work that's being done between the desktop and the phone. Another app, while not a part of the Launcher, goes further to couple Android phones with Windows 10, and that is the Your Phone app, which enables viewing and responding to texts, view images and notifications from your phone.

In addition to the UI, I'm switching over to the Edge browser, Chromium edition. It's also available for Android, with Chromium (iOS has a webkit version, btw). For the time being, I'm going with Google searches on the phone and Bing searches on my Surface Book 2. Why? I'd like to compare the results. I'm not as strict about federated data as I used to be. I did have a major concern when considering a switch, and that was stored passwords. The thought of going back to old sites that I simply can't remember my password for and doing the recovery dance is highly unappealing. Fortunately, Edge can transfer that data. In the Import settings, Favorites, Saved Passwords, Addresses, Payment Info, along with more settings, can be copied over.

Another announcement at the Surface event were the Surface Earbuds. They've already got a price announced, which leads me to believe they'll be available sooner than later. That price, by the way, is $249. I currently use the Google Pixel Buds. The second generation of the Pixel Buds have been announced as well, coming in at a lower $179. The thing here is the assistant, I guess. Cortana doesn't get pushed by Microsoft as a viable contender to Alexa or Google Assistant. There was the Harmon Kardon speaker that had Cortana, and an IoT thermostat that never made it to market – and that's about it. The Microsoft Launcher does have Cortana available as an assistant, but she can be replaced with the Google Assistant, which is what I have done. Having these assistants built into the headphones is cool, I suppose, although I never really use the feature. Perhaps I would if the functionality were more enticing, or something. I don't know. What I do know is that the price of the Surface Earbuds will turn a lot of people off, and I don't expect these things to fly off the shelves. Other than myself, I don't know anyone who is planning on picking them up.

So, as mentioned, I didn't complete the original Microsoft Experiment. Fortunately, it can continue now in a new form. The best part for me is that this doesn't even have to rate as an experiment. Microsoft has pivoted intelligently so that they can innovate without alienating their products. Why reinvent the wheel when you can just improve it?