The Andromeda Journey Continues

Posted on July 13, 2018 by Brad Sams in Hardware with 60 Comments

It was a couple years ago that we first heard the words Andromeda and how Microsoft was resurrecting the Courier project to create a bi-fold piece of hardware. Since that announcement, there have been many highs and lows as fans have waited for the device to be released with the latest news saying that the project may be dead.

It was about a month ago that I uncovered a bit of information about Libra (Surface Go), Carmel (Surface Pro 6) and of course Andromeda and since then, I have been digging around to see what else is going on and was able to unearth what is happening with Andromeda.

As of last year, Microsoft planned to ship Andromeda in late 2018 but as recently as a couple weeks ago, the company put the plans on ice.

Mary Jo wrote last week that the bits needed for Andromeda would not make it into RS5 and she is absolutely correct in her assessment but there is more to the story. While some assumed that this means that the project is dead, what Microsoft is actually doing is sending it back to the labs to be significantly reworked.

Multiple sources have told me that Microsoft plans to overhaul the software and hardware before releasing the device. At this time, the software and hardware do not create a compelling solution that would move the needle for Microsoft and more importantly the Surface brand which is why when it came to the ‘go, no go’ decision earlier this year, it was not given the green light.

And this makes sense, seeing as it would use an ARM processor, the best it could use this fall would be the Snapdragon 835, a chip that is from yesterday. We know that Qualcomm is working on new chips designed explicitly for PCs and it could arrive as early as the beginning of next year.

Sources inside Microsoft say that the next possible release of the device would be in 2019 with expectations being later in the year if it were to happen. Seeing as the device is going back into the lab to be overhauled, it will take time for it be re-worked and it will go through the product approval-pipeline all over again but will only ship when it will be a guaranteed success.

The problem that Microsoft has run into is that the Surface brand is now a premium product line and that they can’t risk releasing anything that will tarnish its reputation. If Andromeda were to be released and it was a complete flop, this could reflect negatively on the Surface brand and impact products like the Pro line that sell quite well.

What you need to know about Andromeda is that the project is still alive inside of Microsoft but that it will not be released anytime soon. The company will re-work the hardware and software, see if it will move the needle, and if not, re-work again, until they find the right formula. Microsoft will not ship a project simply because the first phase is done, they are trying to get this right so that they don’t have another Lumia/Surface RT project on their hands.

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Comments (60)

60 responses to “The Andromeda Journey Continues”

  1. jprestig

    This is very good stuff. As much as I'd love to see this thing in the wild, I don't want to see it be a flop. I'd rather have them nail the experience first. I really like Microsoft these days.

  2. Mark from CO

    Brad:


    Thank you for keeping us updated on this. It is appreciated.


    I will kibble at bit with you. Surface RT was a disaster from the get go - hardware that made no sense. Lumia is a different story. The hardware was very close to its competition. The problem with Lumia, and I know you disagree, was Microsoft had no idea how to promote it, and worse didn't have the internal commitment to make it work.


    In Christ,

    Dn. Mark

  3. Noel

    Definitely the right decision. Do it once and do it right because they'll only have one chance to launch this device. It needs to make a positive impact. A poor first generation product just gives others the chance to improve on your design and reap the rewards.

  4. chrisrut

    Thanks. That all makes perfect sense. Being one's own worst critic is by far the hardest job in marketing.

    And yes it all seems so obvious, but telling a team that worked hard creating something they're not going to open on Broadway is not as easy as it sounds.

    So kudos.

  5. Richard55

    surface go and surface 3 tarnished its reputation. stop making surface devices for people who cannot afford a surface device. don't make lumia race to the low end and death by low end happen again.

  6. John Craig

    Fair enough. Disappointed, but can see the reasoning

  7. djncanada

    Just a question, how do other OEM's deal with rapid releases of newer chips.


    This seems to be a problem for Surface Team.


    Would Microsoft not be in constant contact with chip manufacturers?


    Just a thought?

  8. djncanada

    A second thought, if Microsoft was to create a device that could bridge the digital transformation for students and businesses, that would be awesome.


    I have been searching for a device to use in business for note taking like the Wacom devices.


    If the device could also be used for emails and task management apps too.


    Purpose built for students and business.


    Ability to take audio and transcribe to text would be perfect!


    Thoughts?

  9. Graham Best

    Why is it hard to figure out a market for a portable PC? The growth segment for the PC is gaming. Xbox is Microsoft's strongest consumer brand. The Nintendo Switch has sold millions ahead of the Xbox One.


    Make it a PC with a 3DS form factor that runs Xbox 360 games. Put it out with the Xbox brand. Start with the existing game library. Encourage developers to write UWP apps for it, then make a business version when there's enough UWP apps.

  10. RobCannon

    This device would probably benefit from the upcoming Snapdragon chip that will be optimized for PCs, but also from 5G, which should have wide availability by the end of 2019.

    • EZAB

      In reply to RobCannon:

      I view all of this as good news. The 835 Chip would suck on this device! Get the right Chip in there, (1000) refine the OS, get new PWA's in the Store and make it ready for 5G! Then look out. You took the words right out of my mouth!

  11. MutualCore

    App gap, 'nuff said.

  12. dexman335

    I'd like to see the device be 5G compatible right from the get go. Also, it needs to be usable on all mobile phone provider networks.


    Microsoft restricted the final Lumia models to GSM networks, thus, rendering them non-issues to customers of Verizon Wireless, Sprint and US Cellular which are CDMA-based carriers.

  13. Modroc

    As one of the people this WOULD be a dream device for, without some surge in apps, it's been incredibly frustrating waiting on this. I'm a professor and scientist; I need to be able to jot notes to myself at any time, drive a projector for ppt lectures, videos, and an electronic whiteboard in the classroom, show my small research team the occasional quick demo, edit conference presentations a bit the night before, and occasionally text or - rarely - make a phone call. And if I can watch the occasional movie on the plane and read my tech news at night on something that folds out to an 8" screen, I'm set for nearly all my out of office time. I keep hearing this is a niche product - but every scientist and academic I know is in a similar boat.

  14. bbold

    Makes total sense to me. I think by releasing Surface Go, Microsoft is showing they will stand behind products that have a viable reason to exist. Surface Go = students, business, etc. Andromeda = ?? Windows fans? Sure, I want one. But what I don’t want is another hardware flop like MS Band or Windows Phone. By making Andromeda phone capable, that would definitely also satisfy Windows Phone fans and enthusiasts, but it needs more than that to be a success.

    • Robert Wade

      In reply to bbold: It wouldn't satisfy THIS Windows Phone fan. Not in the least. I already have a problem with how large smartphones have gotten. That is NON-value-added for me. If I can't use the device one-handed, then I'd just rather bring my Surface Pro along, which is infinitely MORE capable than any size smartphone or phablet. I find any concept that a device like the rumored Andromeda form factor as being "pocketable" to be a joke. Heck, I find it stupid to call the Galaxy Note pocketable. It certainly can't fit in pockets of most things I wear, not without stressing the material or just looking stupid in the process. The size and form factor of the Lumia devices I have (1020 and, to a lesser extent, a 950) are perfect for me. If I want or need anything larger than that, my Surface Pro makes infinitely more sense. If they released a device with the design and dimensions rumored to have been Andromeda, I'd have no use for it. It's completely inconvenient as a phone or a tablet.


  15. roastedwookie

    After their catastrophic failures I doubt they can do anything about the software part, more exactly Apps, mobile touch optimized apps that is. Devs have had enough MS in the past years to ever risk any resource diving into MS's lifeless appstore ecosystem

  16. MikeGalos

    OK folks, let's get real. The whole point of "Andromeda" was to take advantage of the C Shell and its capabilities of automatic reflow of UI. That isn't going to be out in Fall so neither is Andromeda.


  17. Byron Adams

    Just make an Android device with special features that the others don't have and that can run all MS stuff as PWAs... problems solved.

  18. dsharp75

    Agreed. I really wish they would do a surprise attack and debut it with the SnapDragon 1000, 4G LTE with support for 5G, essentially full windows 10 and full inking support - but its not in the cards....yet. Oh well, another year to go,,,

  19. Lewk

    *Starts breathing into a paper bag*

  20. AnthonyE1778

    It's good to know they are taking their time with this, not rushing it to the sales floor. I still cannot see how this device will be a success, but it is possible that they have something up their sleeves here that we cannot discern as of yet. We'll see...

  21. Ulfvar

    This is all great news. I am glad they will take their time with it to make sure it is right. If Microsoft truly believes this is what will help them get back in some way into the mobile market, they have to get it right on the first try. I have little doubt that they will nail the hardware, but I am more worried about the software. If they release this next year the store will hopefully have seen some growth from PWA's, that is what will make or break this device.

  22. KingNerdTheThird

    This is the right move by Microsoft. The Andromeda device makes so much sense when you think about the Surface line's emphasis on note taking. I love seeing Microsoft innovate.

  23. dstrauss

    About right - the release of Rev 2 of Samsung's folding Galaxy X should be just on the horizon by the time Andromeda 1.0 is announced by Microsoft. I'm NOT saying they should rush it, but like all of Microsoft's mobile efforts it will be a little too late to the party...

  24. PhilipVasta

    It's disappointing but ultimately the right decision.

  25. CMDV

    Snapdragon 850 (min) or 1000 (best) required. Get all the bits into next Windows version. PWA progress on more apps by MSFT and Google hopefully. Have to make more compelling device than Samsung though...cautiously optimistic.

  26. lpaso

    Hourra !

    That is a great news !


    In the meantime, while they rework on Andromeda, please just add the telephony stack to full W10, so OEM can work on small tablets with 4G ?

  27. christian.hvid

    Another option would be to just skip the Surface branding and call it The Duke Nukem Forever Gadget. :)

  28. glenn8878

    Will they rework the title bar so the Window doesn't get stuck?

  29. Jay

    I don't understand why this device needs full Windows 10 (which is slow on ARM). I'm not interested in docking the device to use as a computer nor am I interested in full x86 applications. The casual consumer won't be doing any serious computing on this. I doubt a professional would either and would prefer to use something like a MacBook/Surface/or Surface Go even.


    Why not heavily skin Android, and put all the essential Microsoft apps that help make a Windows experience? Microsoft has positioned themselves as the company whose products work regardless of platform so why not just make the Andromeda communicate and exchange information between your laptops/desktops better than any other product on the market sort like a Microsoft mobile thin client. Plus it would have access to the massive number of Android enabled apps already available. A one size fits all approach is not always necessary.

    • skane2600

      In reply to infenit101:

      I don't think superior exchanges with laptops/desktops is a compelling enough feature to drive Android users toward Andromeda relative to all the other vendors. If the goal is "products <that> work regardless of platform" the simplest and least risky approach is to make the experience on each platform as good as it can be. There's really no need to create a new hardware product to achieve it.


      Microsoft doesn't need another hardware initiative to fail.

  30. Chris Payne

    So, in other words, this is a perpetual research project that began in 2008 with the Courier (or perhaps earlier). I'm all for moon shot research projects and waiting for technology to catch up to ideas, and I guess kudos to MS for spending time and money on it. I just wish the communication was better, because rabid fans are driving me crazy with this.

  31. Igor Engelen

    Makes sense, right first time. I guess they want to make sure it's an instant hit and not a disappointment.

  32. cseafous

    Thanks for following up on this. It makes so much sense to me. Even if the device was ready, I still think it's too soon to release a device that has the same short comings as Windows Phone (ecosystem).

  33. Mike Widrick

    Is there really a niche between a phone and a device that fits a full size keyboard - that isn't a low cost kindle? I'm skeptical.

  34. skane2600

    So what exactly would this product have to offer? To the extent we know anything about the physical design, it isn't going to be a viable platform for full Windows programs due to it's limited size. UWP apps weren't enough to make Windows Phone 10 a success. If MS is serious about this it seems to me that's an indication that MS is still in denial about its failure in the "modern"/mobile category.


    It's one thing to introduce a new form-factor for a successful product line, but trying to use a new form-factor to resurrect a failed product line is quite different.

    • rkpatrick

      In reply to skane2600:I don't see how the size could really be a hindrance to running full programs; the thing can easily be docked (my Nintendo Switch is oh-so-close to being a pretty good office form factor) for a full power mode. The question for me is more of what kind of "office experience" MS has in mind...for instance, I want excellent music playing on my work phone because I work with music; I don't need a selfie feature or some crazy MP count, but I need a good vid conference experience (a Switch-like kickstand, for instance). But a nice docking story would go a long way for maknig the phone a decent office device.


      • skane2600

        In reply to rkpatrick:

        There are a number of these docked implementations that have been introduced in recent years. They have all failed to achieve any significant market traction. Turning a mobile device into a poor man's CPU unit tethered to a display, mouse, and keyboard is not what most people want.

      • Robert Wade

        In reply to rkpatrick:

        Then what is the POINT of this device? If I have to dock it to really use it, then I might as well have my laptop or tablet or PC. I don't find a foldable device to be a form factor with any real practical value, outside of niche users. It's laughably pocketable. There is no middle ground for me. When I want to go places carrying a mobile device that I can ACTUALLY use as a phone but still easily, conveniently do social media and even some practical work if I desperately need to, my smartphone form factor is absolutely it. If I think I'm going to need to do something more substantive, than anything other than my Surface Pro just makes zero sense to me. It's large enough to easily SEE everything, it has an ACTUAL keyboard if I choose (typing on glass is even more horrific than the Touch Cover was), it has excellent inking capability and has all the touch features you'd expect.

    • Michael Sorrentino

      In reply to skane2600:

      Well, recently Microsoft opened the Microsoft Store up to Progressive Web Apps, they may be courting App developers to bring more PWAs to the Microsoft Store to help boost the appeal of Andromeda. In addition, has it been confirmed that the device will even run Windows? Perhaps, though extremely unlikely, Microsoft is working on a heavily customized version of Android to run the Andromeda. On the other hand, perhaps they plan to introduce the Android App on Windows feature that was meant to debut a few years ago but was canned due to problems getting it to work, perhaps the new Qualcomm chip has provides a means to avoid whatever issues they had in making it work.

      • skane2600

        In reply to msorrentino:

        I don't see why creating a PWA for the Microsoft Store would be more attractive to developers than creating a UWP app for the Store. It's a tiny market either way.

        • Daniel Blois

          In reply to skane2600:
          They don't develop PWAs for any particular store. A PWA will run on any device that can work with PWAs that means Android, Windows and Mac. Now to make Device specific features, will require some work but ONLY device specific features.


          • skane2600

            In reply to Daniel_Blois:

            Yes, they're supposed to work the same on all platforms ... except when they are designed not to. But to the extent that they are implemented generically, they wouldn't provide any particular advantage to Andromeda and thus provide no particular incentive for developers to put their PWA in the Microsoft Store. And yes, generic or not, placing items in any store is a support burden.


          • Robert Wade

            In reply to Daniel_Blois:


            I was told something different by someone who was a frustrated dev for all three platforms. This person said that there were still things you had to do just to get an app to work via the Microsoft Store as a PWA. I'm not a dev, so I had nothing to counter with. But I generally get the idea that most devs will not make apps for Windows unless it's literally a click of a button. They just don't seem to perceive it's worth any time to consider Windows.


            • skane2600

              In reply to Robert_Wade:

              There was not, is not, and never will be the capability to create an app on any platform through "literally a click of a button".


              As far as PWAs are concerned, it's too early to determine if it's an efficient and effective approach for typical development on any platform.

        • EZAB

          In reply to skane2600:

          UWP is not the future, PWA is. Read some of Paul's articles about it, including the recent one about it's slow adoption!

          • skane2600

            In reply to EZAB:

            I've read Paul's articles and they failed to convince me.

          • curtisspendlove

            In reply to EZAB:

            UWP is not the future, PWA is. 


            Say it with me:


            PWAs aren’t magical unicorn horn dust. They aren’t going to make this product successful.


            It needs a new way of doing things.


            I don’t think “your Windows PC, but smaller, and people you love talk at you through it” makes more than hardcore MS enthusiasts want it.


            Oh and “you can get notifications when your coffee is ready from Starbucks’ fantastic PWA” doesn’t close the gap either.

            • Robert Wade

              In reply to curtisspendlove:

              "It needs a new way of doing things". But what does that mean? Believe me, I totally agree that PWAs are not a silver bullet. Not even close. Show me where devs are now converting all their iPhone and Android apps to PWAs en masse, and I might be convinced. But there's nothing "new" about a foldable device, and what, seriously would Andromeda bring that would do anything other than MAYBE eat into the Galaxy Note market (which really isn't any bigger than Windows Phones got at their peak).


              The iPhone made sense--contrary to Stevie's protests to the contrary--because people grew tired of having to use a stylus to interact. The Surface pro made sense because you could have typical advantages of the notebook but also those of the tablet plus the inking features if you were one of those who actually preferred the stylus world (my wife and I both tossed our notebooks after we got Surface Pro's). What can you not do on a typical smartphone, a Galaxy Note or on a tablet now? Whatever new way of doing things someone comes up with, it needs to be a solution to a problem expressed by users.

              • curtisspendlove

                In reply to Robert_Wade:

                "It needs a new way of doing things". But what does that mean?


                I have no idea. If I did I’d be swimming in my money vault on Microsoft’s campus.


                But it mostly I was just thinking it can’t be the same ol’ Version of Windows 10 that is on everything else.


                The problem, at that point, is that it loses a lot of the draw it has with current Windows users.


                I think it would sell a lot more if it were just a boring old Windows version in a sleek new form factor than if they broke compatibility.


                :(

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