Microsoft begins bringing in developers to build its dual-screen future, including Windows 10X

Microsoft's Surface Neo and Surface Duo are scheduled to ship in holiday 2020, meaning that developers have just a few months to port and test their apps.

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Over the next few weeks, Microsoft will begin asking developers to start building apps for the dual-screen future, including the Surface Duo Android phone and the Surface Neo PC that will run Windows 10X, the company's next-generation operating system.

Microsoft said Wednesday that it will begin providing access to a pre-release version of the Windows SDK through its normal Windows Insider builds. Specifically, on February 11, Microsoft will drop the Microsoft Emulator, a HyperV development platform that will allow app developers to begin porting their UWP and Win32 apps to Windows 10X.

microsoft emulator windows 10x Microsoft

Microsoft’s Windows 10X will boast a simplified home screen. Here’s what it looks like in the Microsoft Emulator mode.

If you’re a developer, the new Emulator and related Windows APIs will allow you to begin accommodating the hinge that will separate the two displays, as well as start thinking about the two screens: as two pages of a book, say, or as a primary page with additional notes on the second screen. Microsoft is also asking developers to start thinking about dual-screen layouts for Microsoft Edge, with CSS primitives and a JavaScript API.

microsoft dual screen app patterns Microsoft

An array of two-screen concepts.

Consumers, meanwhile, can get a better idea of how Microsoft sees these devices being used: either as two screens, or as a large screen that spans both displays. “Your app by default will occupy a single screen, but users can span the app to cover both screens when the device is in a double-portrait or double-landscape layout,” Microsoft said in a blog post. “You can programmatically enable full-screen mode for your app at any time, but spanning is limited to user activity for now.”

microsoft emulator surface duo Microsoft

A prototype Surface Duo home screen, using the Microsoft Emulator.

With devices like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold already available or nearing release, the market’s preparing for at least some dual-screen devices to enter the computing landscape. Microsoft's probably in a hurry, too, as its Android-based Surface Duo, and Windows 10X-based Surface Neo are both due by holiday 2020. 

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