Our Best Look at Microsoft’s Foldable ‘Androdmeda’ Device Yet

Posted on December 15, 2017 by Mehedi Hassan in Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, Microsoft Surface, Windows, Windows 10 with 42 Comments

Just around a week ago, Microsoft published two new patents for its foldable mobile device detailing a key imaging feature designed by ex-Nokia engineers. And now, yet another patent of the foldable device has been published by Redmond, giving us the best look yet at its “Andromeda” device.

A couple of patents for the foldable device has been published by Microsoft so far, all of which revolve around the hinge design of the device. It’s no secret that Microsoft’s Surface team loves their hinge designs, and Andromeda will probably have a fancy hinge as well. The latest patent, first spotted by MSPU, similarly focuses on the “self-regulating” hinge of the device, detailing all the technical aspects of the seemingly tiny hinge design that Microsoft is working on.

Microsoft goes into a lot of technicalities on the patent application as it’s supposed to do. But the simple thing you need to understand is that the self-regulating hinge effectively connects the two portions (“surface”) of the device, and you will be able to use the device in a couple of different modes thanks to the hinge. One mode will let you place the device on flat surfaces (no pun intended), letting you view content like movies, videos, pictures, etc. on both the displays.

The bezel between the two surfaces/displays notably seems incredibly tiny, almost non-existent, which could allow for an amazing viewing experience. The design looks elegant from the patent, but it’s unlikely Microsoft will be able to pull off such a spectacular display design with the first version of the product.

There’s another eye-catching mode where the second portion of the device seems to display a virtual keyboard and trackpad, kind of like the Lenovo Yoga Book, allowing you to use the device as a regular laptop. And then there’s the regular viewing mode where you can just watch something or check the time, weather, notifications on the primary display of the device.

Microsoft is still believed to be working on its foldable mobile device, and the final product won’t likely show up before the end of next year or early 2019. Microsoft has been rumoured to be working on a foldable device for years, but we are starting to get a comprehensive idea of what the real deal would look like thanks to these new patents.

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Comments (42)

42 responses to “Our Best Look at Microsoft’s Foldable ‘Androdmeda’ Device Yet”

  1. spestey

    I like how they used Paul as the hand model for this.

  2. Mark from CO


    Thank you for this and your other articles. As Paul said, you are helping round out the offerings on Thurrott.com.

    It would be interesting to go back and see the time differential between the public release of Microsoft's all-in-one patents that eventually became Surface Studio. The patents were remarkably similar to the product. May well be wrong on this, but it seemed 9 mos or so prior to the actual release! Hopefully, history will repeat itself.

    I, for what it's worth, am looking forward to this product, assuming that it will have telephony as well. I know the v1.0 device will have some caveats, perhaps significant. But if done well, this could be the one device that rules them all.

    Wishful Thinking (Mark from CO)

  3. Locust Infested Orchard Inc.

    This looks remarkably similar to the venture Gemini, croudfunded on Indiegogo by Martin Riddiford, the designer of the classic British pocket computer the Psion Series 3 and Series 5 keyboards, and co-founder of Therefore.

    From the croudfunded site, it states, "Gemini is an ultra-thin clamshell mobile device with fully integrated tactile QWERTY keyboard, that fits in your pocket. Designed for Android, it also features a dual boot Linux option. Gemini is fully equipped with 4G, WiFi & Bluetooth enabling both data communications and mobile phone calls."

    Gemini was 284% funded on April 9, 2017, having raised $1,001,799 in funds. It sells at $399.

    More info at www.indiegogo.com/projects/gemini-pda-android-linux-keyboard-mobile-device-phone

    • Jorge Garcia

      In reply to Locust Infested Orchard Inc.:

      Any "micro clamshell" design is DOA. Nobody wants to type on a keyboard that small. Might as well use your smartphone in landscape at that point. The keyboard HAS to be bigger than the screen, but without the whole thing growing to the point of not being pocket-able anymore. That is why I am a huge believer in the tri-fold Pocket PC design, I feel it is the only viable way to make a true pocket laptop.

      • Locust Infested Orchard Inc.

        In reply to JG1170: "Nobody wants to type on a keyboard that small."

        Course you're right, course you're right, (as I stroke my chin), nobody wants to type on a small keyboard, hence why BlackBerries dominated sales in the noughties.

        Besides your argument is flawed from the outset, for billions of people globally use the on-screen keyboard of their smartphones.

        In reply to JG1170: "Any 'micro clamshell' design is DOA"

        This yet to be announced device is not a "micro clamshell", it's a bi-fold ~6" device when closed, so upon opening, it reveals a glorious large display for maximum productivity.

        • Jorge Garcia

          In reply to Locust Infested Orchard Inc.:

          "glorious large display for maximum productivity". But where does the keyboard come in at that point, if both sides of the clamshell are being utilized for display purposes? External Bluetooth keyboard? You might as well pack a small laptop at that point.

          And BTW, the blackberry uses a thumb-keyboard, which of course can (and has) been shrunken down to its minimum usable form. I'm talking about an actual sit down and use-it kind of keyboard, those can't shrink below a certain point and remain usable.

        • Jorge Garcia

          In reply to Locust Infested Orchard Inc.:

          I think we need to define "productivity". If you mean thumb-typing much more comfortably due to the larger real estate provided by this device, OK, I'll agree, this "foldable smartphone" would spank the current smartphones that, due to their 16:9 (now 2:1) aspect ratios do feel VERY constrained when rotated 90 degrees. However, the images showed this device being used on a table-top, so I am still judging it as a micro-laptop, especially given that MS has no mobile OS anymore...and in that sense, the keyboard is simply unusable at that scale, and "productivity" goes out the window (pun intended).

  4. Jorge Garcia

    Ok, it's already been established a million times over that while you can shrink the size of a usable monitor all the way down to practically 5(!) inches, you CANNOT shrink a usable keyboard down nearly as far (remember that oddball HP tablet from a couple years ago with the mis-matched keyboard and screen sizes?...there was actually a lot of logic to that design). In my opinion, Samsung nailed the problem of the pocket-able laptop almost a DECADE ago with their amazing tri-fold laptop thing. It was called the SPH-P9000, and while it was probably absurd for its time (it ran Windows XP) I do believe the form-factor itself is still sound, and begging to be re-incarnated with a touch screen and modern guts. I would love to have one, especially if it could dual-boot into Android. I would love to have a decent laptop always in my shirt pocket. I have reached out to Acer, GPD and others, but of course they think I'm nuts.

    • skane2600

      In reply to JG1170:

      I agree about the keyboard but strongly disagree about the monitor. A tiny screen is fine for doing tiny screen things, but not for general application use.

      • Jorge Garcia

        In reply to skane2600:

        Of course you are correct (that a tiny 5" monitor sucks for productivity), but when the physical limitation at hand is none other than the dimension of a common jacket or shirt pocket, a 5-5.5" screen is the best you're going to get for a display for the time being. Truly collapsible displays of any kind are still a long ways off. That being said, you'd be surprised how usable even a 5" display can be on a table, when angled just right. If you go past a 6" display on a device like this, it is no longer pocket-able, so at that point, there is no reason to stop at any particular screen size, you might as well keep going until it reaches a comfortable size, because you're already going to need a carrying case for it anyway.

        • skane2600

          In reply to JG1170:

          But the only viable market for such a device would be to do things you can't do with a smartphone. If not productivity, what's the point?

          • Jorge Garcia

            In reply to skane2600:

            I can very easily imagine a scenario where I am away from home and I need to perform some more advanced email triage, manipulate a few cells of a spreadsheet, or type out a long explanation of something to my attorney. If I had I the device pictured in my pocket, I'd suffer with the smallish monitor just to have the keyboard and trackpad (incredibly small as it may be). It's a niche use case, sure, but someone in my shoes would very much appreciate that device if it were real. I know you will find a "yeah, but you could just..." but that's not the point of a device like this :).

  5. RobertJasiek

    @VancouverNinja: Tablets are an essential product category because their display is plain, can be large enough for text reading etc. and can be light enough for long handholding. Broken (because foldable) displays do not replace unbroken displays. Smartphones and phablets do not replace tablets for all tasks needing sufficient display sizes. Tablets are used a lot by everybody having good use for them. That you do not use them much does not mean that everybody would be like you.

    Pocket devices are for those needing pocket devices, smartphones are for those needing smartphones, ebook readers are for those needing ebook readers and tablets are for those needing tablets. All product categories are important. This also applies to the still missing product category of the hybrid between tablet functionality; ebook reader 4:3 display, outdoor usability and longeivity; iPad low weight and 4:3 display; Windows Pro 64b functionality (and why not also LTE and phone functionality?). The Surface Mini would not have created it, ARM Windows 32b tablets do not create it and a foldable pocket device does not create it but I would never say that pocket devices would be useless for those needing them. I do, however, think that pocket devices are the much less urgent still missing category.

  6. Jorge Garcia

    Actually I see a real world use case for this now, but it certainly isn't as a "pocket laptop". Were this device to A.) Run a totally mobile OS like iOS or Android AND B.) remain relatively small (5" screens on each side), it would indeed solve a problem I've noticed with some older folks. I know some people who have a really hard time thumb-typing on a smartphone because the keyboard is too small, even on larger devices. I tell them to just rotate the device 90 degrees to enlarge the keyboard, however no one actually wants to do that because you lose way too much of the on-screen content when you do rotate. So with this bi-fold design, you could indeed rotate the phone sideways for easier thumb-typing, while STILL seeing your content on the "other" display. So in that very limited sense, this design would work wonders for some people. IMO the AARP should be all over this as their next rip-off seniors product. The problem with the drawings above is that they show the device being used as a micro-tabletop/laptop PC, and that just doesn't work at all, at that scale.

  7. Dan1986ist

    Looks like those one of those handheld pcs that ran Windows CE around 20 plus years ago. Just an observation, by the way.

  8. TomKer

    Don't notice any indication of a camera in these drawings.

  9. skane2600

    One should always keep in mind that patents are often sought as a way to impede the competition without any direct plans to create a product based on them.

  10. nbplopes

    It looks like a PSION Computer with dual display.

    I had it a long time ago. Even before Windows CE come to town ....

    I wonder how much people would today talk about its keyboard. This nitpicking keyboard conversation just shows how much the world of tech "opinionators" has changed.

    PS: The American Patent scheme is something that puzzles me.

    • skane2600

      In reply to nbplopes:

      The American Patent scheme is a mess. The original intent was to promote innovation by giving an individual a temporary monopoly that allowed them to benefit from their invention. Today it allows large corporations to stifle innovation by allowing them a monopoly on ideas that they have no intention to implement.

    • Locust Infested Orchard Inc.

      In reply to nbplopes: "It looks like a PSION Computer with dual display."

      Never mind the PSION, I owned the HP 200LX Palmtop PC back in the mid-1990s, similar in design to the PSION, but with the capability of running x86 software applications under MS-DOS 5.0, due to it possessing an Intel-compatible 80186 CPU.

      With the addition of a CompactFlash card, the beloved HP 200LX could execute Windows 3.0, allowing the then version of Microsoft Office to run (well there was no Access or Outlook back in those days, but Word v1 and Excel v2 for Windows executed fine).

      So the "Surface Foldable" is in essence Microsoft's blast from the past reincarnated for 2018/2019, but with an ARM SoC.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to Locust Infested Orchard Inc.:

        Mine was a PSION Series 3 from 1991 or so. There were a bunch of handheld computers that appearead back than using multiple OSs. HP is not MS last time I checked. In fact, it just proves how OEM’s were actually innovating all the time around MS software until they got fedup. There was better tech than MS back than, but MS and its OEM business approach proved to be the most efficient, than say, Atari, Commodore, Apricot, Apple, Sun, Xerox, ... so on and so forth.

        Bill for me will always be the man who had the vision to bring computing to every home and did it. With that vision, less pedantic, more practical, the right one, he built an empire.

  11. TheJoeFin

    I really hope a device like this comes to light. I'd love to have a Windows 10 device I can take with me everywhere. I think there could be some awesome unique experiences Windows could deliver with a touch and pen first device.

  12. ben55124

    Netbook v2.0. I guess worth a try, but I think most would prefer a tablet minus the fold.

  13. Rob_Wade

    Oh, yeah, this kind of device really did well before. Good grief, Microsoft has completely lost its collective mind.

  14. joeaxberg

    There is a part of me that believes that this is just patent troll types of stuff. See we invented it first, so you owe us licensing fees. What exactly is the point of this device? Looks like a touch screen version of the Jornada 720 I had 15 years ago. With the advent of smart phones, what's the point?

  15. Locust Infested Orchard Inc.

    From the initial comments here and those reported elsewhere, it never ceases to amaze me how technophiles continue to lambast and pour scorn onto Microsoft regardless of the direction pursued, even when Microsoft's share price currently trades at historic highs.

    Had this been a patent filed by those in the Cupertino Orchard, the World would have greeted the prospect of a foldable device with great fanfare, rejoicing that the Steve Jobs-esque innovative streak has returned to the fruity company, which has under the stewardship of Steve Jobs' successor thus far failed to deliver inspirational devices.

    • Waethorn

      In reply to Locust Infested Orchard Inc.:

      There is a major disconnect between Microsoft's hardware designs and the stuff that actually makes them money: software. The hardware designs are aspirational for...well, who, exactly? The real paying customers don't really care about this stuff, instead buying commodity hardware from real computer OEM's that know what they're doing. Consumers have no interest in high-priced computers that don't have a fruit logo as well, and even that interest is waning. As a business, putting money into the R&D for the incomplete computer lineup that they have just makes no sense whatsoever. The Xbox stuff only makes sense as far as the compatibility with Windows, which IMO there isn't enough of. Xbox games SHOULD be Windows games, and vice versa. The Xbox brand should just be a sub-brand of Windows gaming, and having target hardware like the Xbox console as an alternative to an OEM gaming PC actually makes more sense than the Surface lineup. At least Xbox customers are passionate about their brand loyalty.

      • Locust Infested Orchard Inc.

        In reply to Waethorn:

        One has to bear in mind that Microsoft was primarily founded as a software company, when in 1982 it formed a hardware division primarily for tasking itself to design a mouse for Word. As their human interface devices gained in popularity, particularly with their award-winning mouse and keyboard designs, the hardware division kept expanding.

        No one can doubt the success of the Xbox, and with the recent launch of the Xbox One X, it should surpass sales of Sony's aging PlayStation 4 Pro.

        The Surface range of devices was launched as an exemplar to OEMs at a time when the PC market was in decline from growing usage and demand of smartphones. It can be said the Surface range fulfilled its mission in advocating how OEMs ought to construct laptops and tablets of exquisite quality. Clearly the likes of HP and Lenovo have since built beautifully crafted devices, thereby reigniting consumer's desire to own a Windows device.

        Now Microsoft are attempting to reinvigorate and transform the portable, pocket-able, handbag-able always-connected devices, by bringing a PC desktop functionality and capability for on-the-go work or pleasure. The tried and tested PSION and HP 200LX Palmtop PC/PDA design has been a productivity boon to many in the past, so why reinvent the wheel when a winning formula has already existed though is no longer being utilised.

        From what I can elude to from this article's patent designs by Microsoft, if previous devices of similar design received plaudits due to their functionality, then there's no reason to anticipate a revamped Microsoft design would be a failure.

        • Waethorn

          In reply to Locust Infested Orchard Inc.:

          The only hardware Microsoft ever sold in bulk was their keyboards and mice. I've since moved on though, since their prices are now in the stratosphere, and their designs are just a rehash of Apple's decidedly non-ergonomic spartan aesthetic. When I want a spartan keyboard, I buy a KeyTronic.

          The Xbox One X is nice hardware, but the exclusive games suck. Sony has a far better game catalogue. Unless and until Microsoft cuts restrictions and fees on Xbox IP licensing and development and opens it up to more PC game developers, Xbox will continue to play second banana to the favoured console on the market, as well as Windows games.

          Oh, and Intel already designed a spec for laptops. It's called Ultrabook. It was announced years before Surface, and it was actually Apple that inspired it with the original Macbook Air while working with Intel on a thin-and-light ULV CPU laptop spec. "Ultrabook" was just Intel's design spec for PC OEM's that weren't Apple. As far as desktop PC's, it was PC Partner that designed USFF PC's years ago and moved to the 4"sq spec that is now used as the basis of Intel's NUC platform, which was introduced ~3 years after PC Partner's Zotac division launched their first "nano-sized" mini PC.

    • skane2600

      In reply to Locust Infested Orchard Inc.:

      You're over-generalizing. Criticism of Microsoft, Apple or Google isn't necessarily endorsing the others. Yes, Apple fans in particular seem to be be less likely to acknowledge problems with their products IMO, but not all Apple users are like that and the same is true for users of the other companies' products.

      • Locust Infested Orchard Inc.

        In reply to skane2600:

        You appear not to have followed my train of thought, for my discussion was concerning comments/opinions related to a unreleased Microsoft product, which may or may not exist.

        Your comment however, was in relation to products that have come to market and are retailing.

        Therein lies the prejudicial view of today's technological media concerning all things Microsoft, for even the humble black-and-white mock-up sketches get castigated.

        • skane2600

          In reply to Locust Infested Orchard Inc.:

          I suggest read your own posts more carefully. Nothing you said restricted your criticism to comments "related to a unreleased Microsoft product". You also referenced Microsoft's current share price which, of course, has nothing to do with the future.

          If you wish readers to "follow your train of thought" you should work harder to express it more accurately in your posts.

          • Locust Infested Orchard Inc.

            In reply to skane2600:

            The very fact that this article is discussing a patent and a handful of images of a possible Microsoft device, in addition to my initial comment in the second paragraph where I stated, "Had this been a patent filed by those in the Cupertino Orchard, the World would have greeted the prospect of a foldable device with great fanfare", clearly and unequivocally implies that "my discussion was concerning comments/opinions related to a unreleased Microsoft product, which may or may not exist".

            It is incumbent upon the reader not to pick and choose to read selected parts of a comment in order to twist the writer's intended meaning. Rather, it is advised the reader ensures the comment is read in full, taking the commentary that both precedes and succeeds the section of comment with which the reader finds troublesome.

            In addition, referencing Microsoft's current share price has everything to do with the future, contrary to your misinformed belief. If traders and shareholders feel positive about any given publicly traded company, it's a sure sign the board of directors are steering the entity in a positive direction, thereby signaling an upward growth trajectory for the business, allowing for example, future acquisitions of both small nimble start-ups that possible have a technological advance over their larger rivals (some recent notable ones including, e.g. 6 Wunderkinder GmbH, Acompli, SwiftKey), and larger ones such as LinkedIn.

            Whilst on the topic of acquisitions, in recent weeks there have been media speculation concerning a possible acquirement of Qualcomm by Microsoft. I must stress these are merely hopes by diehard fanbois of the non-existant Microsoft "Surface Phone" rather than anything substantive. With Windows on ARM devices not yet released, though some Snapdragon 835 devices announced, such ideas are ludicrous, for we wouldn't want a sequel to NokiaGate.

            • skane2600

              In reply to Locust Infested Orchard Inc.:

              You started with a general comment about people gushing over Apple products but not Microsoft's. The fact that you made additional comments that specifically related to the patent application doesn't modify the earlier comment unless you specifically clarify it.

              Taken what you say at face value, I guess you don't believe that people are giving Apple preferential treatment except when evaluating products not yet in production.

  16. bbold

    Thanks for the awesome story! I feel like the timeline for this keeps getting pushed back further and further, though. Instead, we should just go ahead and update this as "Microsoft will release this product within the next 1-10 years, giving their management team time to sit on their laurels and solve complicated computer science problems, and surely a bit too late to market so the OEM's and Apple have time to corner that market before Microsoft does." :D Just a hint of sarcasm, but I really do like what I see.