Don't expect Microsoft's Andromeda this year... or maybe ever

Microsoft's rumored portable Surface 'Andromeda' device and the AndromedaOS software that would power it aren't looking like 2018 deliverables. It's back to the drawing board, sources say.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

You've probably seen the published patents, the leaked memos, the development kit references and more pointing to a dual-screen Windows-powered device, known as Andromeda.

It's looking like all these leads may end up nowhere.

My sources say that Microsoft execs recently decided that the Andromeda operating system bits, which were looking as if they'd be incorporated into Microsoft's next Windows 10 feature release, known as "Redstone 5," are not going to make it into the final version of that feature update, after all.

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This is partially because of scheduling and quality, sources say, but more so because there's still no compelling reason for Microsoft to come to market with its current iteration of a small, dual-screen mobile device.

To be clear, Microsoft officials have never said publicly that they were planning to launch this kind of device in 2018. In fact, they've never mentioned Andromeda -- the hardware or software -- publicly at all.

But there have been Andromeda leaks, dating back to a year-plus ago, that an Andromeda dual-screen device was happening, and most likely before 2018 ended. (Andromeda was believed to be designed to include telephony support, but it was never meant to be a consumer phone that Microsoft hoped would rival the iPhone or Android phones.)

The recent shakeup in Microsoft's Windows organization has resulted in Microsoft going back to the drawing board on software and services on which it was previously heading full-steam-ahead. And Andromeda seemingly is one of the casualties.

I can't say that I think this is a mistake. Would there be any kind of wide-scale appeal for an ARM-based small mobile device that worked with a pen and touch, but could only run the limited set of Microsoft Store apps? Would this be aimed at students/researchers? Firstline workers? I realize there are Windows Phone diehards and Windows enthusiasts who've been counting the days until Andromeda finally materialized. But beyond that, who would really need a third device when they already have a phone and some kind of PC or tablet?

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Like its long-ago and cancelled predecessor the Microsoft Courier dual-screen tablet -- and more recently cancelled Surface Mini -- Andromeda was on the path to being a product in search of an audience -- and one likely to debut at a price point that would make it not very interesting to that potential audience, based on information from sources.

I have heard from my contacts that Microsoft officials some time within the past couple of weeks decided the software components of Andromeda, AKA the AndromedaOS, won't end up being part of Redstone 5, which is due out around October 2018. And there's no guarantee they will be in Redstone 6, 19H1 or whatever the next feature update to Windows 10 ends up being.

Does this mean the Surface team has thrown in the towel completely on the idea of some kind of portable mobile device? Not entirely, my contacts say.

Andromeda or its successor could still end up coming to market at some point and attempt to fulfill Andromeda's original goal: A portable, multi-screen Windows-10-based device. But if that happens, expect something more akin to a small foldable PC type form factor rather than a phone-sized device, sources say. And something that will run Win32 apps, not just Univeral Windows Platform (UWP)/Microsoft Store ones.

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Again, for the record, I think Microsoft is doing the right thing here. While mock-ups of Andromeda (based on patent filings) make it look really cool, Microsoft would be badly served coming to market with something that's more a prototype than a well-thought-out finished product, as its competitors could take the concept and beat Micrsosoft at its own game.

A final note: If you're wondering why there have been recent leaks about Andromeda if Microsoft is tabling the idea of it for now, remember one of the reasons that people leak things is to try to save projects that look like they're going to be cancelled...

In Memoriam: All the consumer products Microsoft has killed off

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