Are two screens really better than one? Dell brought a pair of nifty-looking concept pieces to contribute to the device discourse at this year's CES.
The first of these two concept pieces was the dual-screen Dell Duet. The Duet is a dual-screened laptop in the mould of something like ASUS' Project Precog or Microsoft's Surface Neo. It features two 13.4-inch FHD screens on the inside and a very traditional Dell design on the outside. The Duet was also shown off alongside a magnetically-linked keyboard accessory that can be used for a more familiar laptop experience. You can even attach it to the outside of the clamshell when not in use.
To be clear, at this stage, the Duet isn't going to be a device you can buy. It's presence at this year's CES was more of a statement by Dell. It says that, even if the company's bread and butter comes down to fare like the new XPS and the Latitude-series laptops, they're not sitting idly by while Lenovo, Microsoft and others invest in new form-factors.
Then, there's the Ori. The Ori prototype we went hands-on with was a little less polished than the Duet but it had a nice moleskine-esque look to it on the outside. The 13-inch QHD flexible display on the Ori came across as a little more sturdy than something like the Galaxy Fold. Obviously, we won't really know how good the durability of something like this actually is until it's out in the wild but, at a glance, I was satisfied with it. We don't know the specs but the pixels on the screen looked sharp enough and the hinge held its own.
In some ways, Dell's efforts to sit on both sides of the fence when it comes to the next wave of mobile PC form-factors makes a lot of sense. It's easy to imagine a world where foldables and dual-screened PCs fight it out for the dollars of consumers but it's much more likely that both have a place in the market. The situation here isn't that dissimilar from the way that convertibles and 2-in-1 PCs were pitched against one another only a few years back.
Either way, it feels like the missing piece here is software. Both the Duet and Ori were running on regular Windows 10, rather than the foldable-friendly version of the operating system that Microsoft are looking to develop alongside the Surface Neo. Both the Duet and Ori seemed remarkably slick on the show floor but how they'll translate into real world conditions remains a big unknown.
Right now, that's not necessarily a problem. However, it lends concept products like the Duet and Ori a kind of tension. As much as these products show off how ready Dell is to embrace foldable and dual-displays, they also show off how limited these new form-factors will be by the capabilities Microsoft's own operating system.
Disclosure - our coverage of CES 2020 was sponsored by Intel and Dell, who covered the cost of our flights to the US and our accommodation for the duration of our stay in Las Vegas.