Microsoft separates the Launcher app on Surface Duo from Play Store and instead heads towards “system updates”
Microsoft Launcher has been on the Google Play Store for a few years now, and with Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2, the company has customized the launcher to suit its dual-screen vision.
Technically, the Microsoft Launcher version on the store for all Android and Duo phones is exactly the same app, but some features are disabled through policy changes for Surface Duo. Users could use the production version or go for the beta variant where some early fixes were removed.
But as of last week, Microsoft Launcher no longer appears in the store for Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2 users. After the hard link, the app says, “This app is no longer compatible with your device.” . Additionally, beta users are advised to “uninstall and reinstall this app”.
Most people attributed this to typical Microsoft errors. Surface Duo owners blamed compatibility issues with the new device, while Surface Duo 2 owners started scratching their heads.
We reached out to Microsoft’s Vishnu Nath, Partner Director PM Microsoft Mobile and X-Device, who works on Launcher, for clarification:
While this is a rather terse explanation, it confirms that this is a deliberate error and not a Play Store error. Now, Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2 owners should expect Microsoft Launcher updates via system updates similar to the one pushed last week for Surface Duo 2.
As for Why Microsoft does this, two theories come to mind:
- Microsoft wants tighter control over Microsoft Launcher for Surface Duo
- Microsoft Launcher could take a very different direction soon with new code that requires a different delivery method
Of these two explanations, number 2 is the more interesting. Our Surface Duo 2 review noted that Microsoft Launcher had effectively stagnated for most of its life on Surface Duo with only modest bug fixes but no new features. While the preinstalled version on Surface Duo 2 is ahead of the public version, it doesn’t contain much new except for a few updated graphics for the Power Zone.
Given that Surface Duo is a trip for Microsoft, it makes sense that Microsoft Launcher could soon branch off the codebase as it heads to Android 11 (and maybe even the just-released Android 12L) territories. announcement). If Microsoft Launcher becomes fundamentally different from the standard Android version, using the current “single app” method may no longer be viable.
Of course, none of this is confirmed by Microsoft, so we’ll keep digging.
During the Surface Duo 2 briefings, Microsoft confirmed Windows Central that it is exploring more customization options for its foldable phones, hinting that we might finally see more innovation with Microsoft Launcher. Separating the app in the Play Store and linking it to monthly updates could be that first step.
Watch this place.