Microsoft could save 'Surface Andromeda' with an Insider Program for hardware
If Microsoft wants "Surface Andromeda" to succeed, it should follow its own steps for HoloLens and the Windows Insider program. Here's how the company could do that.
There's been a lot of news these last few weeks around Microsoft's rumored foldable "Surface Andromeda" project – which is as much a software effort as a hardware one. It's unsurprising that as we get closer to its launch window, more information leaks out. But the latest bits have turned to the negative: delays, rethinking, and even talks of cancellation.
But what are the expectations for Microsoft regarding Andromeda, and how could the company "save" the project? Look no further than Microsoft' HoloLens launch and the Windows Insider Program .
Go big, or go small, but just go
It's unclear how Microsoft would position Andromeda, and that is part of the problem. The "it's not a phone, but it makes calls, so it's kinda a phone" model is going to be a tough sell, especially with the memory of Windows 10 Mobile still lingering, more importantly, snarky media who have all but declared the whole thing a failure.
Assuming Microsoft goes big on its launch with Andromeda, it will need millions of dollars for advertising, production, in-store launches, partnerships, and deals with developers. Those funds would be needed at a minimum to combat the Apple and Google duopoly on mobile.
The risk of going big is the genuine possibility of this foldable PC's spectacular failure. Could Microsoft withstand such a scenario in the hardware space? Yes, but it would sting. No one lets them forget Windows RT and Surface RT, and it's been four years already, not to mention its efforts in phones.
And this failure would all fall right on the shoulders of Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella, who, so far, has a mostly unblemished record and has done nothing but grow the company. It's not hard to blame him for being skittish about such a risk.
The other option is to cancel Andromeda, move on, and focus on the safe bets. Technically, that works – there is no Andromeda now, so it's hard to miss it. The company continues to move to cloud, focus on Windows in more traditional form-factors, and call it a day. The problem here is this move all but shuts the door on any mobile ambitions, at least in the "pocketable" sense.
There is a third option, too, though: go small.
HoloLens and the slow burn
In January 2015, Microsoft shocked the tech world. Not only was it getting into holographic computing, the company already had a working, wearable prototype that it planned to bring to market.
What Microsoft did not do – despite the high interest – is launch HoloLens into mass consumer markets immediately. Instead, it took around 14 months to soft-launch it for developers at $3,000 a pop in 2016, and that was in waves extending through the rest of that year.
By 2017, reports of Microsoft having only sold "thousands" of HoloLenses hit the web. And that number met its expectations.
This was the right approach. HoloLens is too expensive for consumers, and even if it weren't, the software, experience, games, and design would not make it a huge consumer hit.
I see little reason why Microsoft should not take a similar approach to ambitious hardware technology, even with the Surface line.
Tidal waves start with a ripple
Microsoft should hold a public press event, reveal Surface Studio 2 and any other advancements to Windows 10, and then close with Andromeda. The company should present it as a concept device that it wants to bring to market.
You should be able to preorder it right away, with shipments in early 2019. The product would be for those on the cutting edge, who want to help Microsoft build the next big thing.
The rest is straightforward:
- Announce limited-edition devices.
- Take preorders, maybe in waves.
- Seed to Microsoft MVPs, developers, and influencers.
Once the device is in people's hands, and some hype is built, and you see what the developer and hacker community does with it, we'll if they like it or not. If it's a flop and everyone hates it, slowly ramp it down, learn from mistakes and iterate. Or Microsoft could move on from the project altogether.
By getting Andromeda – or any other experimental device – into the hands of its prized developers, the company could help drive interest and, yes, app development. If, however, people do like it and it starts building interest, the company could continue to ramp up production. It could create hype and leverage constrained production to create false scarcity. Sneaker companies like Nike do this all the time. So do first-time innovators.
Every week there are indie hardware outfits "launching" new products on Indiegogo or other crowdfunding sites. There, people hand over hundreds of dollars for products that they have never seen in person or even technically exist. Sometimes, a year later the hardware launches, and if the campaign is successful, they go on to the next thing. Companies do these micro-models for launching innovative hardware without sufficient capital. Microsoft can follow the same safe model and still leverage its capital, support, manufacturing prowess, and do it even better.
If Microsoft is serious about pushing boundaries of hardware, it doesn't always need to be mass market. Surface Studio proved that. But the company should also use all the tools at its disposal, and that includes smaller, niche launches where the community could help organically grow the product.
Windows Insider Program for hardware
Microsoft already openly tests and develops much of its software in the open. Any "leaks" about Windows 10 are always amusing because a few weeks later Insiders usually have them installed.
Why not take the same approach to new hardware?
I see little reason why a company like Microsoft that prides itself on innovation cannot run, support, and engage in public incubation projects around experimental hardware. Even if the company never makes those products en masse for consumers, it has stable hardware partners in HP, Dell, Lenovo, and others who can. The idea of reference designs is well known in the PC industry. This would be an extension of that.
Microsoft actually did something on a smaller scale in 2015 with the Lumia 950 and Display Dock, so the idea isn't crazy.
Not everything needs to be built in secret for five years and be a massive hit right out of the gate. Andromeda has too much interest in it – even if niche – to pretend it did not happen. Microsoft can go a third way with hardware that nicely matches its approach to software; it just needs to take the first step.
Get the Windows Central Newsletter
All the latest news, reviews, and guides for Windows and Xbox diehards.
Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.
It's not like they haven't spent millions on HoloLens with negative return.
I suppose if I had the right setup, dock, and all, and my phone was super powerful, like my laptop, I would come home, and plop it down. It's something you have to try at first, then get used to.
I'm quite sure that's the future of computing, and that's why MS needs to come on wit it.
* OPEN SOURCE ANDROMEDA SHELL...put it on GitHub....
1. Microsoft builds more cred with open source community and also a boost for GitHub
2. Tinkerers help evolve the shell far faster than Microsoft alone could
3. Leverage the crowd in designing future iterations - you'll start having cult following ... Good idea?
Besides, bringing Win10 to ARM also benefits AR, MR, IOT, not just PC.
If it goes the way of Surface Pro or HoloLens then it would be good.
I feel that the real difference will be do the consumers see it as a phone/Tablet or something new. For W10M it had to be perfect on day one as you needed people to leave something that was already working for them. The Surface Pro and even HoloLens people are willing to wait as they see it as something new that will change and it is not being compared to a more developed substitute. If the answer is that Microsoft can have people look at it as something new then, I think they need to move to be first to market, get the mind share out there. I feel that the answer is yes People see this as new and a HoloLens like release is a good idea. I think they should do it.
The ecosystem kinda sucks (not for me, but for Snapchat kids), and that won't change no matter what, so that's not a good argument to delay it.
The market does exist for it (bunch of MS fanboys, rich/trendy people, and also people who would actually use it for it's purpose), so once again, nothing will change by waiting.
Also they've already spent all their money and time into researching it, so it's not like they're gonna get it back if they cancel it.
Their only sane option is to fix up the last remaining OS problems with it, they should be able to do it in less than half a year if they're serious about it, package it up and go. If it flies - great, if it doesn't - who cares, not like it's the first MS product that failed. And as for the Hololens/Insider idea - why? Again it wouldn't change things. The only company that does such a task is Microsoft, and where did it get them? How many times did you hear Hololens mentioned anywhere in the world in the last year (except //build)? They made a great product and made everyone forget it even exists.
And they had luck with Hololens, because nobody else's still in that market. However with Andromeda, if they don't hit it right now, in a few months tops Samsung will release their Crapdroid version and nobody in their sane mind will care about what MS is cooking up and what they MAY or MAY NOT release in the undefined future, even if Samsung's device is bad. I'm not really woried about this because I don't think I'll ever buy this device (if it ever launches) unless it turns out to be something trully wild, which is doubtful TBH. It'll probably also carry the usual Surface price which is too much even for the people in western countries, not to mention the rest of the world. However, I'm honestly amazed about how an almost 50 year old company, which made the modern world, can act stupider than a 1 day start-up. If they continue like this they'll be run over by way worse companies that don't make such stipid decisions. I had higher hopes for Nadella.
Yes, there are some useful missing apps missing, but hey if you really do need them that much then don't use Windows I guess. I'm fine with my old OG Windows Phone using only Shazam, Readit, and Twitter.
There is no need to build the "perfect device" in secret.
Let users and developers make it perfect.
and draw what they draw (attempt to) but for that I need to watch the video and draw at the same time. WIth this device I could draw in one note and have the video in the other screen. When I'm comuting I'll have an idea for a book I'm writing... and when I'm writing that I'll have another idea for another book. With two screens, I would be able to write both them down before losing my train of thought LOL.
I do not have a need for another and besides many of us don't have a grand to spend on a PC. I'd rather buy a cheap laptop, pay some bills and go on holiday.
It's much easier carry around your pocket-able device rather than a huge surface tablet with a carry case.
Obviously, dual screen device would be lot better to write on than the Samsumg phone.
Though there are two major challenges
1) Thickness - it has to be less then 1cm. It is possible to do so.
2) OS/apps UI UX- MS is struggling on this. Another mojar issue is specific to MS. The app gap.
1) Emulation of Win32 applications whilst docked
2) Can replace moderate computing through continuum If not say you want to get traditional computing into the pockets of the masses with extremely long battery life. As the form factor allows it to be used as a tablet and a phone. Here are some use cases that I can attest to from my previous work experiences: During a property appraisal, I could have used the device to draw the floor plan in one screen and take notes on the other screen as opposed to concentrating on the pda (to draw floor plans) and making voice notes. The fact it would have windows ink, I could have met the client at the property and got them to sign a digitally and with two screens you could potentitally have two people signing the same document at the same time, I left real estate just over 4 years ago and then not many were using digital signatures. I could have worked on two contracts in terms of amendments and annotations, one on each screen - that would have made me even more efficient. Or Allow me to copy and paste on one side I'd have the CRM and the other I'd have the draft contract, I could just tap and hold on the CRM fields + copy + paste in the other screen. Instead of jumping back from the CRM and the document on a single screen device. In terms of analytics you could easily compare two or multiple data sets at the same time allowing for better pattern recognition. Instead of looking at one data set, switching to another or analysing one data set a time or having to resort to print outs or larger screens just so you can compare the data sets. On the consumer side, you could have two kids watching the same video with the device in tent mode and in the middle of a table. So you avoid that tug of war scenario where they fight whose turn it is to use the "phone". Going further with two screens you could hypothetically have two movies playing at the sametime and the seperate audio channelled through bluetooth headphones. Or When you go camping and instead having to rely on seperate table as a map you just use Andromeda as the display is big enough. Plus you avoid having the issue of switching back forth between a map app and a compass app. Also not to mention the pinch to zoom issue when it starts to rain... so with andromeda you could have map with the compass overlayed. Sure you could do that on a tablet but that's another device to carry. If I'm trekking I'd want to carry minimal amount gadgets as possible. So yeah there are many use cases, people just don't think beyond their own bubble. Then again it's a given most people aren't taught to see from multiple avenues and from different prespectives.
2)using out dated version of windows (I know some still use XP!). 3) Issues with viruses / malware.
Each region is different, and lots of us are where carriers don't dictate what phone you can buy, for example. Who says something has to be a success in the U.S. to be a success in the rest of the world? GIANT phone makers are selling in China and they have no plans to release phones in the U.S. "If you don’t think there’s any reason to pay attention to Chinese phones, it’s because you haven’t been paying attention. The problem is that most of the best ones aren’t available in the US, meaning you’d have to deal with third-party importers and a lack of official support if you did want to buy one." The Verge
https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/6/22/17491452/the-best-chin... I can't actually believe how absurd this is. Imagine if Nokia decided their feature phones have to be a success in Finland first, before they can release them in African countries lol.
Microsoft's problem with W10M devices wasn't the user base, but it was the profitability.
They've made losses of almost 20% per unit. And even worse, that wasn't something special at that time. Almost all smartphone manufacturer except Apple and Samsung made no profit then. Other mobile device manufacturer lost up to 1/3 on each unit. Some well known brand companies stopped their Android device activities already, before Microsoft pulled the plug.
In contrast to Balmer, Microsoft's new CEO closed the mobile phone manufacturing because crafting consumer phones couldn't offer a perspective to become profitable at the given market situation. Almost all competitors did face almost the same situation for many years already, too. Most of them couldn't get higher market share till today, then Nokia/Microsoft already had some years ago. Meanwhile the worldwide smartphone market is already saturated and starts declining, so that there won't be a chance of growth from the market at all anymore.
Microsoft should bring Andromeda devices to market as a new dual screen formfactor of pc alike devices, including Windows compatibility with touch and Ink features. Like already done with the Surface product line, they could target professional business users and maybe students who will pay a higher price for extended functionality compared to existing consumer oriented smartphones or tablets and higher mobility than notebook alike devices.
That's no surprise. The number of citizens in EU is much bigger than in US (511M vs. 323M) while standard of living is more or less equal. ;)
RT was never a big launch - most of the world's population couldn't give you an answer at all if you asked them what Windows RT is.
Windows Phone wasn't promoted in a way that would EVER give it a fighting chance. Heck, Microsoft's own apps were given more attention on other OS'es... I'm sure they threw a lot of money at WP; they should have thrown TWICE that amount plus some enthusiasm, and MAYBE it wouldn't have been a complete loss!
With neither focus nor enthusiasm, the concept was doomed...
They make the hardware only because people are comfortable using Windows.
If people were comfortable using their apps on Windows Phone, even if Microsoft dictated they had to put the picture of a butt on their hardware, they would have built the hardware. It's so clear and so simple and I don't know why you don't get it: If people want something, OEMs will build it. It's not about how "hard" it is for them to build or how they don't feel flowery about it. It's your own prejudice: you want "free" platform, so you project that onto OEMs. TO that I have to say keep using Android. No one has forced you to stay on Windows.
You just can't come out with an OS that doesn't support USSD properly and is struggling to get apps 4 years later and expect people to buy it. Microsoft never gave Windows Phone its 100%. THey never took it seriously, and let the exciting spark of its award-winning design die a premature death.
The only reason WP didn't succeed is Microsoft's management and not the idea of the product itself. And here we are again, with stupid people at the helm, oblivious to what made them fail: being late and not assigning resources to priorities properly.
blanket statement? Because by that statememt, you presume I wouldn't be coding or testing using these devices 🤣. Or anyone would start coding and using these devices as a test bed. Do you happen to have a crystal ball that allows you to see in the future? Best thing to do, is go outside and enjoy the fresh air. It will do you some good :)
Clearly, I must be lacking something in my understanding of the software/hardware business, but I still do not understand why MS gave up on W10M and all but abandoned those of us who want to have a consistent system across all the devices we use.
I see the Andromeda concept as having the promise of filling a very large hole in MS's line... I hope like hell they won't disappoint me again.
We NEED this device, one way or another.
I want one, polished or not.
1,000 people have signed in the past hour.
If someone bought a medium but wanted a small, offer a generous trade in program & give the unwanted device to some school kid whos folks can't afford to buy them one.
That's what I liked about the Lumia. There was a device for every budget.
Dan, Windows Central should publish articles about Surface Andy every day for Nine straight days until Microsoft gives up and announce the damn thing!
Tablet expected it's built in cell phone to just send and receive
phone calls just like the plane jane cheap phones do because you KILLED the
Windows smart phone OS. it was perfectly alright with us to use the Apps that are
already in the Microsoft Windows 10 Store and use the Desktop PC Programs.
Many Andromeda fans want Microsoft to make the Andromeda the size of the
original "courier" with Intel core M3 CPU's running FULL WINDOWS 10 because
ARMS CPU's use X86/Win32 emulation software that slows things down too much
& may not run Desktop PC programs as well as Intel CPU's do. People do want a
a well built full Windows 10 Mini Tablet single or folding 2 screen versions
Would also give interest from others to prove the idea is true
As long as the hardware insider program had a reasonable price.
We the community should GUIDE Microsoft how to manage this communication more effectively... Windows Central so far play an effective middle man.. Not only we push for petition... We need to continously to come here to feedback to paint a realistic picture what really happening in real world... Not just US but the rest... how would consumer truly respond to Andromeda.... We need to do our part to compensate what we all know the weakness of Microsoft management in consumer space...
Andromeda and/or Surface line will disappear in a couple of years if MS doesn't manage to run Android apps natively.
If they can't, then MS should bring Androidmeda. It is the only way to save 'Surface Andromeda'.
Android SUCKS (in capital), Windows Mobile 10 was way way way superior. But the lack of apps made it irrelevant and we have no option now. I wish to be using WM10 now, but unfortunately it is almost useless. And, next will be the Surface line. What a shame, really!