Microsoft's Surface Duo is coming soon, and while it is not powered by Windows, there is one cool feature on the Duo that Microsoft fans should really be happy about. Tucked away on the Surface Duo specs sheet is a line explaining support for Link to Windows. This used to be unique only to Samsung phones, but it's now on the Surface Duo, too. Looking at just that alone, this should be seen as a pretty big deal.
It is proof Microsoft didn't forget about Windows 10
The core argument of many diehard Microsoft and Windows Phone fans who aren't interested in the Surface Duo is that the phone is just an Android device with custom Microsoft skin and Microsoft apps. In particular, I've seen comments on social media about how the Android operating system is not designed by Microsoft, so the Duo is not worth buying. While this point is valid and is technically true, there is another point that needs to be looked at. It involves Link to Windows.
You see, Microsoft has been developing apps and experiences for Android for years now. The version of Microsoft Launcher powering the Duo has been designed just for the Duo itself. And, Microsoft put a lot of effort into the underlying elements that power the Duo's gestures. Without a mobile platform of its own, Microsoft wants you to use Android in combination with Windows, one way or another. Enter Link to Windows.
So it is true that the Duo is an Android phone, but Microsoft still didn't forget about Windows 10. With Link to Windows on the Duo, you can still enjoy some of the same synergies that you'd have gotten with Windows 10 Mobile. In combination with Link to Windows, you get a great Windows and Android experience that's nearly seamless, all on Microsoft's own hardware.
Here's why. For one, you won't need to download the Your Phone Android app to enjoy the syncing abilities in Windows 10. On Microsoft's own hardware, you'd get a built-in Windows 10 synergy. Simply sign in with your Microsoft Account from the drop-down Link to Windows menu in the Duo's notification panel, and then visit the Your Phone PC app on your PC. The name of your PC will then show up, and you'll have access to some cool cross-device and operating system features.
According to Microsoft, those features include cross-device copy and paste. Other features also available on other Android phones, such as the ability to see photos, texts, notifications, and access calls, are available too. If you spend most your time on Windows and buy a Duo, it won't get any better than that. Your phone and your PC will go hand-in-hand, but there's more.
Android apps on Windows
Yet another experience delivered with Link to Windows that Microsofties should see as a big deal is the ability to mirror the Duo over to your Windows PC. Another example of the cross-platform Windows and Android synergies, this allows you to enjoy everything you normally would do on the Duo, right on your PC. Again, it really adds value to the Duo. This is something that not even is possible with iPhones and Apple's macOS operating system natively (it can be done through Dell Mobile Connect.) Microsoft is doing something with the Duo hardware, and the Android and Windows 10 operating system that's truly unique.
Thanks to Link to Windows, you can essentially keep the Duo in your pocket, and enjoy all your Android apps right on your laptop. Known as Phone screen, this feature was recently showcased by Microsoft's Shilpa Ranganathan in the Surface Duo briefing, and it's pretty awesome. When linked to Your Phone and connected to the same network, you can open anything on the Duo, right from your PC, and use the Duo as if were virtualized on your system.
It hasn't been confirmed yet by Microsoft, but if the Duo supports Phone Screen as seen in the demo, it also will likely support the new Your Phone Apps feature too. With this, you'll be able to access the Duo's Android Apps on your PC in a windowed mode, like its part of the operating system itself. Once again, it's hard to find this much cross-platform synergy, and it shows that, for Microsoft, Android is the big chance to reunite phones with Windows.
A bit like Windows 10 Continuum on Android
Alas, Link to Windows isn't really something new. If you might recall, Microsoft's old Windows 10 Mobile phones used to sport a feature called Continuum. Plug a compatible phone into a dock, and then into a monitor, and you'd get access to a desktop-like experience. There's no hiding that it is different, but Link to Windows is a bit like this in concept.
As I've said throughout this article, if you buy a Duo, you'd get access to most of the stuff on your phone, on any PC you own. That includes mirroring the screen to access your apps. Yes, it isn't a full-on desktop-like experience like Samsung deX or Microsoft Continuum, but you get what you need, without having to buy a dock or use a monitor or extra cables. Any PC you own becomes an extension of the Surface Duo, and it's absolutely amazing.