An unauthorized video published to Twitter supposedly shows off a new feature of the upcoming Microsoft Surface Duo: Peek, a quick way of sneaking a glance at your calendar by opening the phone just a bit.
Two videos from the WalkingCat account show off Peek in a couple of different contexts. In the first, a few seconds of what appears to be a rendered video shows the phone being slightly opened, revealing an outer margin of the screen with a digital clock and a narrow list of calendar appointments. A second video shows a view of Peek where the user glimpses who’s on the other end of an incoming call, and then folds the phone back to take it.
Neither video has been confirmed by Microsoft, though the WalkingCat account has a good history of unearthing hidden promotional videos that Microsoft authors. Nothing directly indicates that the Peek feature will appear on the Surface Duo–it could conceivably be a concept that Microsoft developed and then abandoned. There’s also no indication of whether this would be part of the phone’s Android interface, or a component of the Microsoft Launcher app Microsoft has developed for Android phones.
Both videos leave me torn, in opposite directions. On the one hand, slightly opening the phone to see who’s calling, then deciding whether to accept it, seems like a normal, convenient use of the technology. We perform similar gestures all the time with conventional smartphones—a call comes in, and we either tap the power button to display the screen or just flip the phone over.
Interacting with it, as in the first video…that’s a much tougher sell. Why are users expected to open the phone just a crack, without folding it back entirely? Are users so concerned with confidentiality that they want to peek at their calendar as they would a poker hand in a high-stakes game? The rendered video seems to match up the user’s sight line with the edge of the narrow strip. I doubt that would happen in everyday use.
One of Microsoft’s hidden strengths is its support of modalities: differing choices of user input, such as touch, voice, pen, eye tracking, and more. Microsoft may have research that indicates that yes, users would take advantage of Peek. But if Peek is real, my first reaction is that it’s a gimmick that won’t do much to sell the Surface Duo, compared with its other anticipated features.