Earlier today, German-based publication Dr.Windows.de revealed that Microsoft's Android launcher would be getting an update in the Google Play Store that is unlike any others before it. As Microsoft preps for a possible July release of its hotly anticipated dual-screen Surface Duo device, today's Microsoft Launcher 6.0 release highlights a splintered path of development that has been slowly converging since January of 2020.
At the end of 2019, the Microsoft Launcher team began redesigning its Android launcher experience with more Google-Pixel like design and feature sets and using the beta channel as its testing bed for other sorts of functional development. However, today's launcher update comes to the Play Store as a beta release but marks a rebuild rather than a simple redesign of the consumer-facing version of the Microsoft Launcher and many believe it's going to become the predominant launcher experience for both foldable and single screen Android devices going forward.
Over the past six months, the rebuilt, beta version of the Microsoft Launcher has gone through several feature set updates that have brought it back on par with the current public version, and in some instances, surpassed it. Items like landscape rotation and support for hidden app functionality were all brought to the consumer-facing version of the Microsoft Launcher, however, as part of the rebuild, there have been several features that the Microsoft Launcher development team has scrapped in favor of performance or utility, such as blurred backgrounds and the way it handles timeline content fetching as well as no longer supporting landscape switching.
Presumably, many of these will return in a future update to the launcher before it's released as the main interaction point on its flagship foldable device possibly in July.
For now, anyone signed up for the beta launcher program can head over the Google Play Store and grab the update to test out. Anecdotally, the experience is relatively bug-free, but noticeably lacks the same sort of polish the public launcher enjoys.