Microsoft’s Andromeda: A Folio of the Future

Posted on October 31, 2017 by Brad Sams in Microsoft Surface, Mobile, Windows with 97 Comments

Over the past few weeks, we have been hearing a lot about the ‘Andromeda’ device that Microsoft is building. The hardware, if it is ever released, is Microsoft’s vision of the mobile future or at least a device that allows them to stay in the mobile conversation.

If you have been watching First Ring Daily, I’ve been talking about this hardware with Paul for a couple of weeks and now it’s time to toss a few more details into the pot to help paint a better picture of what this device may look like when/if it is released. As always, this is early information and many aspects of the hardware could change as it marches down the production pipeline.

Here is what I have heard is that Microsoft is working on a dual-panel small-form-factor hardware that has a foldable display; there is a patent that Microsoft recently received that may depict the hardware (much like how the Surface Studio patent was representative of the shipping hardware).

Further, Microsoft is working on optimizing its apps for a dual-screen setup as I have heard from several sources inside the company saying that dual-panel UWP apps are now being quietly developed. Pen input will play an important part of the experience but it goes beyond OneNote to include Mail, Calendar, and other apps too.

When it comes to the display, word on the street is that Alex Kipman is said to be helping out with the hardware which also makes me wonder if this will have an AR/VR component as well to it.

One rumor that I have heard but have not been able to confirm is that Microsoft wants to build a holographic display to be able to show holograms. This may be why Kipman is working on the hardware but this is still pending on if I can find others to verify if this is moving forward.

Internally, Microsoft is already expecting this device, if it does come to market, to be a low volume product. Because it is a new form-factor, multiple displays, and likely cutting-edge hardware, it will not come cheap.

Further, I fully expect that it will support phone calls and Walking Cat has found evidence to support this. I don’t think this is a ‘phone’ but more like a device that supports phone functionality which raises the next question, Intel or ARM.

Seeing as Microsoft is already working with partners to build out an ARM ecosystem of device, it would make sense that this small form factor hardware would be ARM based. Additionally, the Surface brand will need to create the hero ARM hardware as that has been the primary function of this team inside of Microsoft.

One thing to keep in mind that has muddled up some rumors is that ‘Andromeda’ is also a software component of Windows. Keep that in mind as more information about this hardware leaks.

When it comes to positioning this hardware, I expect the company to pitch it as a fully-featured mobile folio. Think of it as a PC in your pocket that can also power larger displays and if the company can sell this device in volume, it would help fill the mobile gap left behind by the death of Windows Mobile.

I know many keep clamoring for a “Surface Phone” and if that’s what you want out of this device, you will likely be let down. This is Microsoft’s exploration into new hardware form factors as it looks to move beyond the desktop and laptop.

An ARM-based, foldable two-screened piece of hardware with pen support, LTE connectivity, multi-screen UWP apps with long battery life and possibly VR too? Sign me up.

 

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Comments (97)

97 responses to “Microsoft’s Andromeda: A Folio of the Future”

  1. jhoff80

    Honestly, more important to me than supporting phone calls would be supporting SMS (and obviously data is important as well). I wonder if the Messaging app will stop being useless if/when this thing comes out.

  2. Peter klobčič

    holographic display is probably a stereoscopic display which allows you to see a 3D image without the glasses, i think LG made a phone with such display when 3D tvs were a hit.

  3. Lauren Glenn

    I would love to have a PC that made phone calls and was a tablet. Somehow I think we all know about the Courier tablet and somehow are trying to figure out ways in which Microsoft will take too long to come out with it or will just mess it up (UWP, Metro apps). I hope they don't but if it's not a PC and they don't give us full Windows support (and/or Android support), then I don't see it go further than our imagination.

  4. Winner

    Well it's not like they're rushing on transforming Control Panel in Windows to Settings. That would be actually polishing an existing product. So might as well come out with new form factors to try and see if they can find yet another way to become relevant in mobile.

  5. Jason Honingford

    Why does it need to fold? To fit in a purse?

  6. mmcpher

    Sign me up as well! I am currently using a Samsung Note 8 and really like the S-Pen, but the screen is a little too small and the text input too glitchy to be optimal. I have been generally disappointed in the lack of development in stylus-based text inputting. A decent desktop mouse has long had the capability to sense where a text input field on a screen and default to that location so you can just start typing at a keyboard rather than having to tab or mouse-point to it. So why not the same for a stylus/pen? So that a text box pops up when I hit the pen button or hover over the space, so that I can write it right in where it's going. What happens on the Note8 is when you want to write out with the S-pen, you are prompted to a text box on the bottom of the screen and then have to hit done when finished and hope the on-screen cursor hasn't floated away while you've been writing. And the Note 8 is too small for real free-flowing handwriting, whereas this thing has the real estate to spare! Also, the folded close illustration above looks like it might be suitable for the legendary Surface Book 1 Hinge in miniature!

  7. CurtK

    I hope this becomes a real product. I have hated every minute with Android. I have always wanted a powerful, small form factor pen device like this--business focused is perfect too, I want it for that. I don't give a crap if it doesn't run Snapchat, I'm not 16 years old.

  8. Pulagatha

    As long as they come out with a four inch phone as well, I think it wouldn't be half bad.

  9. TheJoeFin

    Sign me up!


    Reason this is better than Windows 10 Mobile: Pen support, full UWP support, full Win32 support emulated, isn't trying to be an iPhone/Android.


    Expectations are everything. If MS sells this as a crazy mobility experiment merging UWP, Win32, Pen, PWAs, LTE, all on Windows 10 I think people would be excited about a new cool thing. If they push this as a drop in replacement for an iPhone or Android Phone I think that would confuse people and not be a strong play.


    On another note I'm a little worried that they would add ink support to the calendar so soon! I developed an app to do just that called Ink Calendar!

  10. Mark from CO

    Brad:


    Good read. Thank you.


    Ditto on your 'Sign me up," skeptical though I am that Microsoft has the ability or stomach to really make this a success. Yes to "No illusions, extreme enthusiasm" on the part of Microsoft.


    I fear the VR add will just add unnecessary time to get this to market. It needs to be offered yesterday. Skip the VR until Version 2 or 3. Microsoft doesn't have the luxury of time.


    Mark from CO

  11. richfrantz

    Seems to me that this form factor is the point where the pen should be docked inside and not mag clipped to the edge.

  12. kshimamura

    This device would be perfect for our UWP field data collection app for our organization, with a stylus and GPS/GNSS! Then "SLAP!" reality hits and I better temper my expectations :(

  13. woelfel

    Only thing I don't like...it's two screens instead of one screen that's bendable. :(

  14. Durishin

    Make it phablet sized - when folded - give it telephony and I'm in. With a BT headset and Cortana, I can manage my calls and texts without ever opening the thing up. That's something that neither Siri nor Goog assist seem to be able to manage.

  15. dontbe evil

    please be fast, before nadalla notice and close this project ... cannot wait to ditch android

  16. dstrauss

    THIS would be the iPad killer - and that's coming from an iPad user of many years...

  17. polymath


    TEAM is a web app, ( 22m ) let it sink in he says...

    also listen at ( 28m ) windows 10 PWA. ( & WinRT ?? )


    if they are writing TEAM as web based, what about the other apps like, Onenote, office 365 maybe this development is well underway, and next year with PWA live in edge & the program store,, all of windows office software will be served from web servers.


    there's a thought


    --- this two screen gadget, with ink?

    --- it has messaging and audio/video chat

    --- would only need a browser in order to run this software...

    https:// channel9.msdn.com/events/WebPlatformSummit/Microsoft-Edge-Web-Summit-2017/ES04?term=pwa

  18. polymath


    Tablet, 5.5" Flexible AMOLED colour

    Published on Sep 10, 2017

    https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJcy-Pd3EHs


  19. polymath


    Foldable 10.2" E Ink e-reader, Fashion, Flexible Plastic Logic,

    Published on Jun 11, 2017

    https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-kYQ61A-s4

  20. polymath

    Microsoft Tablet Prototype "Codex" two screens 2009

    https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=049_U-0C9qU

  21. polymath

    this is 2011, Sony P, two screen's 

    https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxDrWMAxnBk


  22. Roger Ramjet

    Dual boot Windows Andromeda/Android, or Android runs within Window environment?


  23. glenn8878

    They can’t position as a mobile product unless they want to fail. This whole thing makes no sense in their product lineup. Definitely an aspirational product that’ll get tossed away in the Employee don’t layoff Team.

  24. rmac

    Android on one screen and W10 on the other?

  25. Ugur

    I look forward to see a presentation on it. A device with twice as much screen when unfolded could be quite useful. Not sure if this is the ideal setup for it, but there's definitively big room for something like that in the future.

  26. Tony Barrett

    Well, there's low volume, then there's no volume. I'm not sure there's even a market for a device like this, and if it's running any form of Windows, then well, that would not be a sensible choice - let's put it like that. The price for something like this would be astronomical too, but MS would have to put all the same R&D in even if it only sold a few thousand units.

    Alternatively, it doesn't even exist until you can buy one, so why even speculate.....

  27. Rob_Wade

    That design is beyond stupid. Microsoft is on some serious meth.

  28. Chefgon

    Courier, is that you?

  29. Nick Vlittas

    3 words..... Take my money!!!

  30. zerocheat gamer

    how bout make an accesorry for gaming like the nintendo

  31. Neville Bagnall

    I like the look of it. For me the real clincher would be a Studio like dock with a discrete GPU for driving the display and additional memory and CPUs for real productivity.

    Lets say the Folio had one ARM 835, 4GB of RAM and 256GB storage, while the dock had a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of Video RAM to drive that gorgeous display, 3 extra 835 chips and an extra 12GB of RAM. Now that would be one hell of a Hero productivity solution - phablet, tablet and workstation "mobility of experience".

    And if Alex Kipman wants to throw an AR or VR headset with a discrete processor into the mix, that could work too.

    If they delivered all that... well, the banks have started financing mortgages in Ireland again...

  32. gvan

    This is much more exciting than the iPhone X.

  33. MutualCore

    Another dead on arrival product like the Lumia phones.

  34. cseafous

    I think PWAs will take this device to new levels of usability that we never saw with Windows Phone or Windows RT.

  35. MacLiam

    I carry a gene for novelty seeking and early adoption, so I am constitutionally powerless to resist this kind of thing. Anyway, I have been expecting something like this for about a year. I'll buy one, not necessarily because I will have been persuaded that it is designed to serve my needs, but mostly to see how I can make it work for me whether the MS designers envisioned its complete potential or not. I don't care if it turns out to be a commercial failure for the company. I just want them to sell it for at least the length of time it takes me to order one, receive it and maybe replace it a couple of times under warranty.


    No illusions, extreme enthusiasm.

  36. Rob_Wade

    Dear God, what focus group told them THAT ugly piece of garbage is something anyone would want to carry, much less use? Idiot.

    • CrownSeven

      In reply to Rob_Wade:

      Wow someone who's actually seen the device? Tell us, what does it look like?

      • Carlos Osuna

        In reply to CrownSeven:


        No need. We actually witnessed the fall of the Courier, the Zune, the Kin and the Surface RT. ODMs tend to water down this incredible looking ideas and the end result will not look much different that current Surface offerings, UNLESS Microsoft is investing in some secret manufacturing facility with some secret new material, which of course, is not true.

        • Patrick Dunlap

          In reply to Carlos_Osuna:

          The Surface RT lives on as the SP4. It is basically the exact same form factor with improvements. As far as patents compared to final product the patent release of the Studio compared to the final might be a good place to look to guess who different this product might be from its patent filings. The patent just has to be close enough to protect the design.

        • Cosmocronos

          In reply to Carlos_Osuna:
          What fall of the Courier? The only thing that leaked was a clip and no real hardware, too ahead of its time. As for the Surface RT if and when this device will arrive it will run Windows 10.


          • MikeGalos

            In reply to Cosmocronos:

            For that matter, it was never intended to be a product. It was a Microsoft Research concept for experimenting with a new form factor. Microsoft was VERY clear about this every time it came up.


            The ONLY ones pretending it was a pending product were tech press people who wanted clickbait and got it both on their manufactured rumors and then on their stories about how the non-product was "killed".

  37. navarac

    Sign me up? Sorry, burned too many times "by Microsoft generally" now.

    "..." edit.

  38. skane2600

    I'd estimate that at least 90% of what people call "holograms", aren't, in fact, holograms at all. So if someone mentions a "hologram" feature, you really don't know exactly what they mean.

  39. ponsaelius

    The major reason why Microsoft abandoned phone, apart from the multiple reboots, lack of marketing, lack of strategy outside the USA was.... lack of apps. As Joe Belfiore said they even paid people to write apps.


    So this new mobile device will suddenly, by magic, have a compelling app ecosystem. Of course mail, calendar and edge will work. As will ink. However what about the actual things people do on a mobile device - camera, social media, payments, wallet, google services. A business device may need none of these things but even if it ain't a phone how is it a meaningful device?


    I don't know. However I think I will let someone else be an early adopter. I doubt whether it will be a consumer device and I doubt it will be affordable except on a corporate budget.


    If it's like phone it will be gone 24 months after release.

    • Stokkolm

      In reply to ponsaelius:

      I would compare it more to Surface Pro 1 than to any Windows phone type of device. It's a bet on a new type of PC form factor, not really a phone at all. As we know, Surface Pro 1 led to Surface Pro 3, which led to the 2-in-1 form factor becoming pretty much mainstream. That's not to say that it won't be a giant flop, it could still be that. It's an interesting idea to me though. You're probably right though, it will be too expensive and it will be mainly for businesses.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to ponsaelius:

      Camera is a good question: where's the camera on the device images above?

    • Bart

      In reply to ponsaelius:

      Agreed. This device might make sense IF Microsoft is able to make PWA's the go to apps on the Windows platform. Until then, this thing is dead in the water IMHO

      • VancouverNinja

        In reply to Bart:

        Not in my household. My wife would kill for this thing. She ignores the iPad Air 2 for her iPhone 7s all day long. It is a convience issue - if this thing can fold and be carried easily, have phone capabilities and open up to double the screen size...SOLD. It would already have all the apps she cares about. For me the same boat - I hope they come through with this - it would deliver the right device format at the right time.

    • CrownSeven

      In reply to ponsaelius:

      Lack of apps? If this is running windows on arm how will there be a lack of apps?

      • AnOldAmigaUser

        In reply to CrownSeven:

        The 800 pound gorilla is whether Intel will enforce patents regarding the x86 instruction set. Any Microsoft device running ARM may have to tread very lightly around desktop or Centennial applications.

        My guess is that the Android bridge was cancelled not because it made UWP unnecessary, but that it would have run afoul of patents that may have put many of the licensing agreements that Microsoft has in place with Android manufacturers in danger. That is a real revenue stream, and Windows Phone was never going to match that.

      • ponsaelius

        In reply to CrownSeven:

        We don't know if Win32 will be included in the modular idea of Andromeda. This could be UWP only. We don't know if Chrome will be allowed either.


        On a small screen I don't really know how useful Photoshop will be even if it runs.

        • dstrauss

          In reply to ponsaelius: Why is Photoshop always the stake in the ground for these mobile devices? If Photoshop is mission critical then get a device that is designed for that, not a moleskin replacement tailor made for email, messaging, browsing, and Office apps.


  40. mjyocca

    Honestly this would be an awesome device for traveling consultants, creative professionals, etc. Instead of lugging around your laptop or big tablet into a business meeting just bring a device like this. Depending on price and features I'll buy.

  41. Ahmed Nauman Tariq

    Any mobile/cellular device with Windows 10 is openly welcome. Because of UWP apps, current users are not going to lose anything. It will probably support all apps from the store (mobile and PC).

    I was thinking about issues related to a dual screen phone lately. It is quite difficult to have a pragmatic dual-screen phone due to the following reasons:

    • When closed, will screen be outside or inside? Screens on outside will make the device more prone to damage. Having screen inside will add a step of opening it up for even checking time. Or having two screens stacked up with the top one being the primary and the bottom one being secondary, which will slide from bottom to the right.
    • Where would the pen be placed?
    • What about the Shell and apps? Will both screens behave as 2 monitors or one seamless screen? To have a seamless experience is really difficult for a foldable device. But it will be better for watching videos. And if they have a gap, things will become more difficult. Having apps half on both screens will be a pretty bad experience, and having only one app on each side will not allow Movies, Edge and OneNote to use both screens.


    In short, it's very complicated. And Android devices will FAIL on dual screen if you think it in detail. And no wonder I saw in the article that they are creating UWPs to support dual-screen. So my doubts were valid.

    But I presume that Microsoft had already figured out the answers to all these (and other related) issues, and that's why things are going very fast internally.

    And about the cellular connectivity, I don't know why I'm getting the feel that they'll use Skype for calls and messaging, instead of the current Phone and Messaging apps... And it's a bad feeling.


    In the end, although I want to know everything about the device right now, I'm also cringing with all the leaks, as they can ruin the surprise.

    • jhoff80

      In reply to antnauman:
      When closed, will screen be outside or inside? Screens on outside will make the device more prone to damage. Having screen inside will add a step of opening it up for even checking time.

      Not that they necessarily would do this, but one option would be something like Samsung's LED case. It's got a touch-sensitive LED section (about 9 LEDs tall by 16 wide) so that when you press the power button, the time lights up. When you get a notification, it displays a selectable (or custom) icon that can be set per app (or for phone calls, per contact). You can answer incoming phone calls right on the LEDs, and also when playing music it switches to a play/pause button and rewind/fast forward. Not that it's the only option, but something like that on the outside would be one way to account for that scenario.


  42. Carlos Osuna

    "at least a device that allows them to stay in the mobile conversation."


    Yep, of course, when there's a family reunion and toddlers keep nagging dad to give their, parents have to politely tell them "Not now Johnny, this conversation is for grown ups..."


    Of course, poor Johnny and his "Magic Active Tiles" and his "Magic Folding Folio" have no place in the Android/iOS party...

    • trevor_chdwck

      In reply to Carlos_Osuna:

      Many people still have laptops and desktops, why? Because it's how serious work gets done, but really they only want one device. This will service those people better than Android or iOS because you can just plug it in to a dock and you have a full desktop OS that you can utilize, and a smart phone for on the go. For these people it will be huge, and there are hundreds of millions of people like this. However, iOS just got a multitasking shot in the arm and Chrome OS is rumored to be merging with Android, so the door for Microsoft is quickly closing if this doesn't come out soon.

      • Bill Russell

        In reply to trevor_chdwck:

        There used to be an "Andromeda" rumor for android and chrome merging. The funny thing is - how is android apps on chrome not exactly that? What difference does it make to the user if OSs under the hood are "merged" or not. Google themselves said flat out they will not physically merge into one OS but features from each may show up in both OSs where it makes sense. This incessant from companies over and over except apple that things have to merge into "universal" things is just ridiculous. Devices are cheaper than ever, and we have the cloud. There has never been a better time to own multiple devices that do fewer things, better. We just got over the damn "universal" desktop windows PC not too long ago.

      • 12Danny123

        In reply to trevor_chdwck:


        Android and Chrome OS are NOT merging, they canceled that project. In fact it's almost impossible to merge both Android and Chrome OS, especially the business models, they're too fundamentally different. If they force OEMs to submit to a closed source OS, then they'll move away from it or even refuse to use Google OSes.


        That's not a good position to be in since through foldable devices, OEMs can just use Windows 10,

      • skane2600

        In reply to trevor_chdwck:

        How is a smartphone, dock, external keyboard, and monitor "one device"?

  43. rameshthanikodi

    this looks like quite the hardware bet...far, far bigger than anything they've done with the Surface line in recent years. I wonder if they'll even put the Surface brand on this. I find it weird that people still continue to clamor for the mythical "courier" device but I guess clearly there's some demand for a dual screen inking device - even if it's a halo product or sorts

  44. darkgrayknight

    With phone capabilities? Then this is exactly the Surface Phone I want. It is the PDA of the past merged with the Smart phone and morphed into multiple layers of existing devices.

    Note taking -- check.

    Incoming call -- check.

    Maps -- check.

    See/show what's on one's OneDrive -- check.

    Courier type functionality with dual display capable UWP -- sweet.

    Dock into graphics power upgrade dock for 4K gaming -- and we're done here, I might need to sell something, but take my money.



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