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About that $1400 Surface Duo, and more

🎸 Good morning! I’ve been watching classic rock songs performed live on YouTube a lot. Is there any better than this Dire Straits performance of Sultans of Swing?

So, about the Surface Duo...

Microsoft’s full reveal of the $1,399 Surface Duo didn’t find a lot of enthusiasm from the consumer tech crowd that we play in. 

  • Many dropped in reminders of the similar LG G8X with dual-screen accessory, the ZTE Axon M, and of course, the Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 2 expected later this year.
  • The tablet/phone hybrid is not a new idea, and Microsoft’s price tag is not friendly to those who want to try it out.
  • Of course, we’d rarely recommend a first-gen device anyway, but that’s beside the point a little.

Why? It’s the attempt that matters:

  • Yes, the timing is unfortunate. As Wired notes, Microsoft had to shift gears from selling a “work” product to a “staying home indefinitely” device. Microsoft’s own reps talked about how useful the device was for meal planning, rather than, you know, sending emails or writing back to people on Teams, or whatever.
  • It took Microsoft five years of R&D tooling on the device to get where we are now, per CNET, so perhaps it’s understandable that paying $1,399 includes a little payback on the R&D side.
  • Missing elements like 5G support, bigger battery, NFC, and so on, couldn’t fit into the area created by two 5.6-inch screens.
  • The idea here is a new category of devices. Surface chief Panos Panay noted that people are more productive on two monitors. Which is not the first time that insight has been handed down.
  • And I don’t want to be too negative about an attempt being made. If I don’t buy it, it doesn’t change anything, but at least Microsoft is trying.
  • Maybe, too, there is something to this. CNET, in particular, fell head over heels for the dual-screen hinge design in this quite cool transparent model.
  • It’s the software that will really matter and create the use case that elevates the device from being just another slightly odd dual-screen Android phone. 
  • Initial reports were that software was still being ironed out ahead of the September 10 release  date.

Oops, that release date is also unfortunate timing

  • September 1 sees more information revealed about the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.
  • September 9 sees the unveiling of the next foldable Razr.
  • Plus, whatever remains of IFA in Berlin happens in early September, likely meaning at least some new phones announced, even if in-person launches are no more.
  • Finally, Apple might host an event with new products in September too, although speculation has shifted from early September to later in the month.

In any case, we await full reviews of final hardware and software. Can a new use case actually emerge?

Round Up:

🎧 Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live are surprisingly easy to fix (Android Authority).

📂 Motorola will unveil the next foldable Razr on September 9: 5G, a faster processor, and other key improvements (Android Authority).

🦵 Ok you have to see this: The CaseCrawler gives your phone tiny robotic legs so that it can yeet its way to a charger (Android Authority).

🕵️‍♂️ Here’s my Tile Slim review, which I reviewed after buying it after losing my wallet for a few weeks. It’s good, it works, so what’s peace of mind worth? (Android Authority).

🍎 Apple releases new software updates for iPhones, iPads, and Macs, squashing bugs (Ars Technica).

🔧 Major Apple assembler Foxconn says China's ‘days as the world's factory are done' (PC Mag).

📽 Ouch: The Times has oblierated Instagram Reels, an imitation of TikTok, but worse (NY Times).

🤝 Facebook, Google, Twitter, Reddit, Microsoft, Verizon, Pinterest, and more, team up on election security ahead of the 2020 presidential election (CNET).

🚕 Uber keeps warning it’ll have to stop business in California (TechCrunch).

📡 The iconic Arecibo Telescope has suffered major damage, and has gone quiet (Wired, images of the damage here). 

🔋 Hyperion's hydrogen-electric XP-1 supercar is capable of 220 MPH, and 1,000 miles to a tank of hydrogen. Apparently. (CNET).

🎮 Shroud returned to Twitch, and his comeback stream was a little bit popular? Half a million people tuned in, and the chat was too fast to read (The Verge).

🚀 The next flying silo SpaceX Starship is being readied for testing and an eventual hop (Twitter).

🌌 Astronomers have found the most distant Milky Way-like galaxy ever observed (Phys.org)

🔥 Digitizing Burning Man: How indie developers are re-imagining social apps to save the iconic off-the-grid event (TechCrunch).

🌋 “ELI5: How can a tiny pimple hurt a whole shoulder?” (r/explainlikeimfive).

Throwback Thursday

Yesterday, back in 1981, IBM introduced its first personal computer, the IBM 5150, then marketed just as the IBM Personal Computer. It did pretty well, you'd have to say.

  • Retailing for $1,565 (today’s price: about $4,438), the first IBM PC was dramatically cheaper than expected.
  • It took on the likes of Apple’s Apple II and Apple III, as well as computers from Tandy, and Commodore.
  • The PC was immediately successful and blew away IBM’s expectations. It shocked reviewers for its features and how good it was, from the keyboard still popular today, to its open architecture. 
  • Some reports indicated 40,000 orders on launch day. It quickly became a dominant player in computing.
  • By 1982, TIME magazine made the personal computer its Man Of The Year (retold by Wired)
  • Importantly, software developers raced to make programs for the PC, with more than 750 ‘software packages for the PC’ available after a year, PC World reportedly noting ‘more than four times the number available for the Apple Macintosh one year after its 1984 release’.

You could say it was a success,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.

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