why I believe Andromeda is important and needed


Lots of talk and debate about the Andromeda device lately, particularly about the dual screen aspect of the device, but I don’t think having 2 screens is all that important at all. Sure, it’s cool and new and it opens some new possibilities, but that’s not why I’m so eager for the device. Here’s why I badly want to see Andromeda announced: the chips in the newest high-end smartphones are so fast/powerful that it’s a shame and a waste that they are confined to a smartphone. The vast majority of iPhone users do not need an A11 for what they are doing. The right thing for customers would be to allow them to use their super powerful and expensive smartphones to power tablets and laptops/desktop monitors, which would save them a significant amount of money (and other advantages). Obviously Apple will never do this, and I can’t see Google doing this with Android/Chrome OS (because how on earth would that work? A Chrome OS powered phone? Would it dual-boot? They just wouldn’t do this). Having a phone that runs ACTUAL Windows, capable of running win32 programs when plugged into a display, that is not a niche device, that has mass appeal. That actually could be disruptive. Soon, Windows 10 will run well on ARM, and later next year ARM Windows devices could run even better than Intel powered devices because of TSMC’s process lead. This is a huge opportunity and only Microsoft is capable of shipping a device like this right now, and I think Microsoft is the only company that wants to do this (Apple REALLY does not want to do this). Give us Andromeda with a Snapdragon 845 and leave Apple looking boring and old fashioned!

Comments (52)

52 responses to “why I believe Andromeda is important and needed”

  1. skane2600

    A device that needs to be plugged into a display to run Win32 apps is like a mobile phone that has to be plugged into a phone jack to make calls. The mobile value comes from the ability to do work away from a desktop or any other tethered environment. The need for emulation just compounds the inappropriateness.

  2. bbold

    It saddens me because while I also wish to have or see such a device as Andromeda, when I read these posts they are just completely delusional. Microsoft WILL NOT release Andromeda, not right now, anyway.. and I'm in agreement that they should not. (Are you all seriously ready for another public hardware failure??) No app ecosystem, plus they learned from WPhone and Band. No one's interested in IOT and App reliant devices unless they're Android or Apple based. Saddens me. And the petition I see going around today (as reported on Windows Central and other sites) is sad, too. The guy who wrote that calls the device a "phone" and is completely off his rocker and fanboy delusional about what the device actually is that he is petitioning for. I admire the gusto, but... argh. Just... a shambles.

    I agree that the forward thinking of Andromeda and devices like it (arm-based) is brilliant, and new ideas and concepts is what the industry needs. However, is Microsoft the one that needs to be providing it if it's own app ecosystem can't support it? Nope.

    Just a thought: Perhaps MS can partner with Google or Android to bring a unified platform device to the marketplace. Perhaps.. Andromeda running your 'choice' of Android OS or Windows 10? Give users their choice of OS on Andromeda and that solves the problem. Right?! I have a feeling that's a pipe dream, though, but dang that would be brilliant!

    Additionally, when Courier was cancelled in 2010, Microsoft's statement still holds true, for that and other devices: "At any given time, across any of our business groups, there are new ideas being investigated, tested, and incubated. It's in Microsoft's DNA to continually develop and incubate new technologies to foster productivity and creativity. The "Courier" project is an example of this type of effort and its technologies will be evaluated for use in future Microsoft offerings, but we have no plans to build such a device at this time."

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to bbold:

      I still think they were on the right track with Band, but it was too expensive; and they would have needed a V3 or V4 to really nail the physical and material design (the material failure on the strap alone could have been enough to sink the product). I think they could have done it, and it could have been an interesting part of their cross-platform strategy. They could have snapped up FitBit for $2-$3 billion just to get the user base and bring in Band on the high end. It would have been even more interesting if they hadn't dropped the ball with Cortana and also slept through the smart speaker explosion. Having missed out on wearables and smart speakers, I can only image they are going to miss out on the next wave of "hearables" that is about to be ushered in by future versions of AirPods.

  3. TheJoeFin

    Microsoft does not need Andromeda the device; Microsoft needs Andromeda the OS. The problem with Windows on small devices today is that it does not adapt well to the small screens. Using Windows with pen/touch on a sub 7" device is not a good Windows experience.

    In my opinion it does not make sense for a device to be released to the mass market until the software and services exist to make it shine. Ultimately, Microsoft's mobile play should be a steady gradual transition for people. Initial users would by this device as a companion device to use for their more productivity tasks, so it would need to be able to dock in some way. I could imagine Microsoft making a portable device which could dock into an existing desktop, then work on the desktop, run apps from the portable device with a keyboard/mouse on a big monitor, but your data can walk around with you.

    If users want to use this portable Windows device for their only device, then Microsoft needs to make a way for their users to pass all of their communication through Microsoft. This would include, email, SMS/MMS, messaging, calling, etc. over a cellular connection. If Microsoft seriously invested into Skype and made it into a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (like Ting, Boost etc.) then they could make core messaging go through any device via an app on iOS, Android, or Windows. This would enable people to choose a Windows device for all of their digital needs. I don't think Skype will ever get to a point where it works well enough, or has enough consumer trust to get to this point. Also Microsoft seems to be terrified of SMS/MMS.

    If Microsoft does not make the software investments they need to make then Andromeda the device will be a waste of time and money. It seems like Microsoft probably understands that there are not enough elements to make a successful device.

    • There are not enough essential apps in PWA form.
    • Andromeda OS is not ready.
    • Cellular calling and SMS/MMS are still essential for most people.
    • ARM chips are not fast enough today
    • Intel chips are not efficient enough today
    • Batteries are not big enough today
    • UWP has not been successful enough

    Until those things change I don't see a mobile device coming from Microsoft while Satya is CEO.

    • skane2600

      In reply to TheJoeFin:

      "If users want to use this portable Windows device for their only device .."

      People who find that a smartphone is sufficient for the kind of computing they want to do already have their "only device". The question is whether those who want to use more sophisticated productivity programs are willing to compromise the experience in order to have only one device. And of course, once you have to connect that device to a docking station or monitor to run those applications, you've left the realm of the "single device".

      • TheJoeFin

        In reply to skane2600:

        Exactly. I would think Microsoft knows they need a device which can convince some people to give up their phones. If they can't get enough hardcore Windows productivity people to drop their Android/iOS phones then 'Andromeda' isn't good enough.

    • dsharp75

      In reply to TheJoeFin:

      Excellent analysis, whole heartedly agree. Sorry, I still do wish it were coming sooner than later though. It would be my companion device. Since Android apps are mostly Java, and BlueStacks is years old, couldn't Windows 10 Core OS run Windows with emulation to get Androids apps while PWA is growing and UWP (finally) grows? With the telephony , always on connectivity and high speed (5G) networks, smart phones would end up being entertainment devices again.

      Andromeda! :)

    • maethorechannen

      In reply to TheJoeFin:

      If Microsoft seriously invested into Skype and made it into a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (like Ting, Boost etc.)

      In every country Skype operates in? Or are you expecting Andromeda to be a US only device? (which is something that actually wouldn't surprise me if it happened)

  4. ecumenical

    If they secretly resurrected Astoria and this device runs Android apps, it'd have a chance (not surefire - but a chance). Otherwise they probably ought to kill it before release, as much as I'd love to play with one.

    • PeterC

      In reply to ecumenical:

      I think, although not 100% sure, the reason they canned Astoria was due to the financial hit MS would take on their lucrative android patent revenue stream. I read about it ages ago in some financial journalism and would post a link to the article but cannot for the life of me remember where it was.

  5. Bob2000

    The dual screen concept could work but it needs

    * An OS that works as a phone but also a PC.

    * Windows desktop OS mode can run across both screens like a virtual full screen.

    * The ability to run Win32 desktop apps in emulation or native Arm Win32, something MS badly needs to build up if Arm Windows is ever to take off. Not just common Win32 desktop software but productivity software too.

    * Allow not just PWA, UWP but Win32 API's to use both screens.

    * Games, using the second screen as a virtual gamepad is a neat idea but it also needs games that are not mobile titles but PC Xbox titles and the ability to use Xbox controller with it.

    From the sounds of it Andromeda at best was only partial to the above, for it to be a success it would have to excel at every one of the above out of the box.

    • wright_is

      In reply to Bob2000:

      There would be no point making Win32 ARM, it is an old technology that isn't safe. It is kept around for legacy reasons. But due to its popularity, it is hard to get rid of on Intel Windows.

      • skane2600

        In reply to wright_is:

        In the very unlikely event that Microsoft could get Win32 on ARM with a price/performance ratio that was as least as good as Intel's but with better battery life there might be a point.

        "Safety" might be important to tech people but it's a low priority elsewhere. Of course, the degree to which Win32 is unsafe is often exaggerated.

        • wright_is

          In reply to skane2600:

          It is a lot more involved than just converting Win32 to ARM, the source code of the applications will also need to be modified. It is a lot easier to do this with managed code, like .Net or UWP than it is with Win32 applications (very simple VB6 applications excepted).

          • skane2600

            In reply to wright_is:

            When I said "Win32 on ARM" I'm talking about 100% compatibility which would mean that applications would not need to be modified, just recompiled or very efficiently emulated. Do I think this is possible? No, which is way I characterized it as a "very unlikely event".

  6. dcdevito

    Where are the mobile Windows apps? Oh right, so it's DOA.

  7. Chris_Kez

    I welcome Andromeda simply as the latest in a long line of experiments about where personal computing might go. If companies didn't try new things then we'd never get anywhere. Whatever new product comes along, there are always plenty of people who will say "I don't see why anyone would want this", to which I reply "Then you simply lack imagination".

    • skane2600

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      It's not always about a lack of imagination. Sometimes rejection of a new idea is based on careful critical analysis and sometimes the market proves that analysis correct.

      Sure, it makes a lot of sense for companies to study and experiment with new ideas, but that research should stay within the company. I don't know if the rumors about unannounced products are deliberate leaks by Microsoft or whether their employees are violating their NDAs, but these leaks are often harmful and steps should be taken to stop them.

      • Chris_Kez

        In reply to skane2600:

        I would draw a distinction between the following two approaches:

        1) Saying "I understand that people may want Product/Service Whatever because of Reason A, Reason B,... Reason N..., and that Company XYZ may want to release or offer this for their own Reasons 1/2/3, however after careful analysis I think this will not work-- or only work in some limited way-- for the following reasons..." versus

        2) Saying "I don't understand why anyone would want this".

        If someone has actually done all the critical thought for approach #1, but summarizes that thought process by offering approach #2, then I would say the person doesn't lack imagination but rather good communication skills as well as respect for other readers. Throughout these comments you'll find both.

        • skane2600

          In reply to Chris_Kez:

          It works both ways: I don't see any analysis in this thread by you indicating why you think the product would be successful. Both your accusation of a lack of imagination or a lack of good communication skills seem to be ad hominem arguments.

  8. Nicholas Kathrein

    I have to say you are over estimating just how powerful these ARM chips are. You're not wrong saying Apples ARM chips are the best and fastest and almost no one uses them to their potential. Really only creating and working with 4k video taxes the iphones ARM chip. Now Apple's chips are 1 to 2 years ahead of the rest of the industry so Qualcom's snapdragon 845 still isn't where it needs to be to run a desktop operating system like Windows with all it's legacy code baggage. ChromeOS runs pretty good but intel mid to high end is still way faster. Arm is starting to create chips designed for desktop use which use around 10x more power and heat but might be as fast as Intel while still using 1/2 the power intel needs. So basically we are 2 to 5 years away from ARM chips ending up in thin and light laptops that can hang with the low end Intel chips for thin and light and ARM most likely will be better for battery. Apple in the next 1 to 3 years will have laptops running their ARM chips as Apple wants to control the entire device and anything they can own they do.

  9. PeterC

    Honestly, I think its all quite difficult. There's loads of ex win mob users who dearly would like a windows mobile "ish" device and not android/ios. Market share is small but its still quite a big number of users. Andromeda chit chat gets them (inc me) quite excited. But.... the reasons Win Mob "failed" in Microsofts eyes havnt really changed and now they've effectively walked away from mobile (smartphones) I personally think the situations worse for them. There's no way back for phones.

    I could use an andromeda device tomorrow - I have a bookshelf dedicated to my moleskin notebooks - I use loads in my work and I carry around a phone/surface/notebook/reading glasses - its quite a stack.

    Selling a Microsoft device to committed microsoft users/fans is the market I think your talking about. I rarely find an IOS/Android user who expresses much interest in considering Windows. For all the R&D and manufacturing costs etc I just don't see it is viable to the men with the spreadsheets unless they can make it far more consumer accessible, a big big seller- and thats going to take apps and developers who are currently elsewhere.

    I think andromeda is fab - but its a dead duck. I so wish it wasn't.

    If Microsoft want back into mobile I'd get someone else to build an OS, don't use windows, don't call it windows, ensure app platform cross-compatability out of the box, make sure its developed by some young bright sparks well away from Redmond. Encourage a custom ROM forum development etc and do some exciting fun stuff away from corporate eyes.

    Personally I suspect an Android ROM fork with MS apps and neatly integrated to windows desktop would be great. Go checkout Sailfish OS - its not what ive described but you pay $49 for the software which is developed for Sony Xperia mobile. You buy the phone and buy the ROM and install. Some developer somewhere could earn themselves a neat earning being the Cyanogen/lineage variety for ex Win mob users...….. seriously youd probably find yourself offered some decent future jobs too.

    p.s typed without my reading glasses on.... so god knows what the typos are like

  10. Jhambi

    I cant wait for Andromeda. I'm going to connect it to the Ford sync powered by Microsoft in my car. I will use my Cortana enabled smart speaker to send messages to it while i'm driving my Ford powered by Microsoft Sync

  11. Jules Wombat

    And what makes you think you know what Andromeda is ?

    It's only fan boy hype.

    Any reentry into the Mobile consumer market would have to be based upon an Android fork.

    • Bdsrev

      In reply to Jules_Wombat:

      Paul and Brad have confirmed quite a lot

    • skane2600

      In reply to Jules_Wombat:

      You had me until you mentioned a Android fork. With Android there's fundamentally just two choices: run it fairly stock (with perhaps some GUI tweaks) and join the commodity Android market or fork it significantly and lose most compatibility with existing apps. I don't see either of those options a good business choice for Microsoft.

      • PeterC

        In reply to skane2600:

        I agree, but Microsoft have an uncomfortable reality to face here. If they want back into mobile it’s either android/android fork or a new os that’s not windows. The people they need to attract, to win over, to invest in the microsoft way, don’t believe in windows and a fair few don’t believe in Microsoft. People can rail at that statement and point to desktop usage etc. But IMO microsoft will need to “create” the new windows to kick start a new business chapter. Unfortunately google has already done it and it’s called android, IMO.

        Edit>> simply take whats there, android, and challenge google for it, make it better than what google are doing with it. Deal with the privacy/data issues and parental controls in a better manner. Amazon took android and created a business offering from it. Huawei and Samsung have business models built on it - all those companies "use" android but to varying degrees don't "trust" google and each has their own backup plan, Samsung and Huawei have their own OS's in dev behind the scenes, i'd def keep an eye on Huawei OS dev.

        Or don't do any of that and walk away from mobile and in some long off future re-enter the mobile space when everyones fed up with google/android and IOS and maybe wants to give windows another go. But thats along long way off, IMO.

        • skane2600

          In reply to PeterC:

          What's the point of "getting back into mobile" if there's no profit in it? Remember buying Nokia was all about trying to succeed in mobile at any cost. $7B into the dumpster.

          Back in the early days of the iPhone had Microsoft introduced a legacy-free non-Windows mobile OS things might have turned out differently, but now iOS and Android are too entrenched for that gambit to work.

          • PeterC

            In reply to skane2600:

            I don’t think there’s any point getting back into mobile financially speaking (although I’d prefer a windows mobile personally) but what Microsoft thinks is another matter. But, whether there’s a favourable future for MS without mobile is a harder question. I don’t think there is as we’d prob like , and its going to impact in so many unforseeable ways which will prob cost MS in corporate/product acquisitions. Developing apps for iOS and Android is all there is unless they fancy disrupting Google’s version of android.

            • skane2600

              In reply to PeterC:

              Perhaps someday iOS and Android will "evolve" to be full featured OS's, but at the end of the day there'd still be no compelling reasons to port productivity programs to those platforms or for users to change which programs they want to use to make the switch. The legacy weight of Windows falls not only on Microsoft, but it's competitors as well.

              iOS and Android have succeeded because they are operating in a new domain. In that domain they satisfy the needs of users quite well, but in other domains quite poorly. There's really no need to try to address all needs in one device or one OS.

        • curtisspendlove

          In reply to PeterC:

          But IMO microsoft will need to “create” the new windows to kick start a new business chapter. Unfortunately google has already done it and it’s called android, IMO.

          Naw. Ship has already sailed for phone/tablet OS’s and desktop/laptop/server OS’s.

          They won’t start any new device categories with Android. Google *might* have a shot with Chrome OS, but I doubt it.

          Anything built from current OS’s, including Windows, will just be rehashes of current product categories.

          This is is why you see the “warring” sides of Mac vs iPad users. Neither of those OS’s can currently subsume the other. Any OS which could crush either would be pretty different.

          I find myself in an odd position of agreeing with Apple about touch screens, yet disagreeing with them at the same time. Regardless, hybrid devices are hard.

          I don't think Windows, as is, could drive something like the Andromeda device. I’m very curious to see if they have built out something to prove me wrong. I hope all the composible shell stuff is really allowing them to carve the cruft from Windows.

          But I’m skeptical.

  12. lvthunder

    From what I heard Paul, Leo, and Mary Jo say Windows on ARM just isn't there yet. They need to have a solid product if they want to succeed. I also don't believe ARM Windows devices will run better than Intel later next year. I'll believe it when I see it, but until then give me a break.

    • Bdsrev

      In reply to lvthunder:

      It should be noticeably better on the Snapdragon 845, and I'm sure RS5 and RS6 will have performance improvements for ARM. Next year, Snapdragons will be made on a 7nm process which will be significantly ahead of Intel's 14nm+++++++++++++ process :D

  13. Polycrastinator

    You lost me at "capable of running win32 programs when plugged into a display, that is not a niche device, that has mass appeal."

    I'm trying to think of the last time someone I know needed a win32 application specifically that wasn't for work. Not coming to me. Mass appeal is the application selection you see in Android and iOS. That ship has already sailed.

  14. KingNerdTheThird

    Look at all the visions of the future videos by Microsoft. They all include devices like Andromeda. Being delayed is not the end of the world! I'd rather it come out when it works well than just based on an arbitrary release schedule.

  15. Bats

    First of all, you're wrong. Andromeda is not the only kid in town. Samsung has a product that does the same thing, running Android. I believe it's called Note X.

    Also, we need to accept the failure of Continuum and the fact that very very few people on this earth wants to run a mobile device that operate on full Windows. We have heard this before and we have seen the plans executed,....and we have seen it fail. I think it's time to just accept reality.

    • wright_is

      In reply to Bats:

      2 screens, go back to 2011 or so and look at the Acer Iconia dual screen laptop. No keyboard, you opened it up andt the top screen was by default the desktop, the bottom screen the keyboard, but you could use the bottom screen as an extension of the desktop.

  16. wright_is

    On the other hand, we have seen that the Snapdragons give poor performance in laptops, so far...

    • Bob2000

      In reply to wright_is:

      Poor performance in emulation yes but not when running native code.

      Problem is as always MS who only realized at that last moment that Arm laptops need parity with x86 laptops to be taken seriously and never made a huge effort to get desktop software developers to port their Win32 apps to Arm.

      So the Arm laptops got a hammering in reviews, MS panics then releases the tools to compile Win32 for Arm. We are now just stating to see the first desktop apps like VLC ported to Win32 Arm but MS made a huge mistake is not rounding up as many Win32 apps as possible and getting them ported to Win32 Arm for the launch of the platform.

      Emulation was MS primary approach which was a terrible decision.

      • skane2600

        In reply to Bob2000:

        I doubt there were many developers sitting around thinking "If only there were tools to compile Win32 for ARM, I'd be all over it." The problem isn't the tools, it's the lack of a viable market (as it was for the WP).

        Perhaps if Microsoft flooded the market with Windows on ARM laptops for some unsustainable price like $100 and sold a few tens of millions of them, developers would recognize a profit opportunity and jump in. This assumes, of course, that the ARM version of Win32 is 100% compatible with the Intel version.

  17. Tony Barrett

    Mmm. Sounds suspiciously like Continuum, which died a pretty horrible, lonely death. Nobody was interested, and even HP gave it a big shot with their Elite X3, but nobody bit. Now, Samsung gave a very good account of themselves with their Dex dock, which apparently works very well, but that's running Android - an OS designed from the ground up for ARM. Continuum had some bad limitations too. The problem for MS is that Windows doesn't seem to scale down well to ARM, and performance is mixed at best. The x86 emulation they now have is patchy and performance is pretty poor. All in all, you may be excited, but the vast majority are saying 'meh'!

    • Bdsrev

      In reply to ghostrider:

      That wasn't real Windows. People want to run Chrome and iTunes, or even Firefox.

      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to Bdsrev:

        That wasn't real Windows. People want to run Chrome and iTunes, or even Firefox.

        I’m not so sure they do. They want to access their social media feeds, listen to music, and that’s about it.

        If they are at work, they want to ignore their boring “work“ computer and mess with their phone.

        And most of of those people aren’t using iTunes to listen to music. They are using YouTube or Spotify.

  18. scj123

    I fancy an Andromeda device because its new, the idea is really cool, and I fancy trying to make my life better through some cool piece of new hardware / software, and from the images on the internet and the hype that has been created, this is one amazing device.

    Ultimately I know that at this moment in time its no good for Microsoft, but like most of the readers of this site I love to have new things to play with. I just suspect that in a couple of months my Andromeda device would end up in the draw full of other really amazing things that for some strange I never use.