Microsoft 'Andromeda' and 'Centaurus:' Does size really matter for a new Surface?
Does size really matter? Andromeda thinks so.
Over the last couple of weeks, talk of a larger "Andromeda" device has been making the rounds on the web. I learned rather quickly that this larger device wasn't actually Andromeda at all, but another device codenamed "Centaurus" that Microsoft is prioritizing over Andromeda for the time being. Centaurus features the same two-screen setup that Microsoft is working on with Andromeda, except it's larger and not a phone. This raises the question, does size really matter for a new Surface?
While many of us want Microsoft to make another phone, perhaps it's not a wise idea for the company to do so before it has an ecosystem in place to support it. Windows Phone failed because of a lack of apps, and that hasn't changed since Microsoft laid it to rest. If Microsoft were to come back with a new phone, regardless of if it introduced a new form factor, it would fail for the same reasons. Nobody wants a device they can't do anything with.
However, people have a different set of expectations when it comes to buying a PC over a phone. With a phone, we rely immensely on app availability, because that's the only real way to do anything on those devices. On a PC, however, app availability is not a primary concern for most people, as a lot of what a user needs to do on a PC can be done through a browser. Sure, some people need specific PC apps, mainly power users, but most people aren't primarily deciding between Windows or Mac based on the apps available.
When I first learned about Centaurus, I wasn't sure how doing a "bigger version" of Andromeda would change anything. A larger dual-screen tablet would suffer from the same problems Andromeda does, but then I remembered, Surface is pretty good with mixing things up, and Centaurus isn't going to just be a tablet. It's very likely going to be a laptop too — a PC.
Thinking about form factors
To many, this new form factor will feel gimmicky and unnecessary, but it's a new way of working. If Centaurus is modular in that it can swap out one of the displays for say a keyboard accessory or an e-ink display, Microsoft could find a unique market for it. Even if that isn't a thing, the idea of dual-screen foldable device something many people have been obsessed with since rumors of the Courier back in 2010. A digital journal that can carry your digital life is still a unique idea, and one that could work.
Since Centaurus will be larger, it can be treated as a PC, meaning people will have different expectations for it. Sure, the OS will likely be very different, but if it's Windows Core OS, it can — in theory — run Win32 programs. That's just there to tie people over until UWP apps become the primary app platform on Windows 10, however.
Here's the thing, Microsoft isn't forcing developers to build UWP apps anymore. It's not offering developers money to do it, and it's not offering to it themselves, because this system doesn't work. Instead, it's playing the long game. In 10 years, will it make sense to build a Win32 program? By then, all the old versions of Windows that don't support UWP won't be in support anymore. Windows 7 will hopefully have little to no market share.
And while in 10 years there will still be legacy apps in use, new app makers will very likely opt to build a UWP app, because that's the app platform on Windows that's still being updated. If the revolution of PWA turns out to be a huge deal, then Windows is already ready for that as well. UWP apps and PWA are one of the same on Windows 10.
So, doing Centaurus first gives Microsoft more time to build out an ecosystem for a phone it desperately wants to build. Size does matter here, and it just means we have to wait longer for Microsoft to do a pocketable version. I'm not saying we'll have to wait ten years, but I am saying we will have to wait a little while longer until Microsoft can figure out whether or not this form factor makes sense.
It tells a good story
Releasing Centaurus first makes for an excellent chronological story too. Let's say this form factor proves popular, other OEMs jump onboard and build their own versions, and app developers start making apps that take advantage of the dual-screen setup. If that happens, Microsoft can in a few years come out with Andromeda and market the shrunken technology, which makes for a more "personal" and connected digital journaling experience.
At that point, people start looking at Andromeda as the first "true PC" that fits in your pocket. It runs Windows, it uses the same form-factor that's found in other devices that are successful, and now it can make calls. It's the full package and makes Andromeda much more appealing. In addition, if PWAs take off like we're hoping they will, it will have a selection of apps from that alone.
This could be enhanced with Android apps too, running in an emulation layer for when a user needs it. At that point, Andromeda is the full package. A Surface Windows PC that fits in your pocket, runs all the same apps as your PC does, and can even run some Android apps when required.
So, yes, I think size does matter, as it changes how we view these devices. Centaurus as a PC launching first makes sense here, as it lays the foundations for Andromeda as a phone. It would be the first phone that looks and behaves like a PC, that can also fit in your pocket. I think there's a market for a device like that.
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Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.
Boy, I'm glad I already got a new phone. Andromeda won't be here until 2025, that's if it ever happens. How can we hope that MS will magical have a stronger ecosystem in the near future if their ecosystem is currently on the decline? That doesn't make sense. I wish MS would prove me wrong, but have have too many doubts.. My faith, hope, wonder, and excitement, might return IF MS announces at Build 2019 there will be Android emulation in some forms on some type of smaller Surface product, or for Windows in general. I know for a fact that Android apps are the only thing that can save windows outside of enterprise. Don't count on PWAs anytime soon. We need apps now.
Been said here over and over and over, Andromeda is real, it's coming, 2018, 2019, 2020.....now who knows when, if ever.
Just another of MSs spectacular failures in the consumer space.
Andromeda has zero bezel between the screens per the relevant patents. Centaurus will pave the way for Andromeda by giving people a more familiar form factor in which to work out the kinks, design wise and software wise.
this Centaurus device sounds incredibly stupid to me.. we dont know much about it but so far from what we have heard.. god microsoft, whats wrong with you..
Seriously, the only reason to release another tablet device would be to make one that'll fold into a more pocketable size. Exactly like the originally envisioned Andromeda device.
Oh how I need this device! This is not for typing novels on if you want that, you always can pull out your Bluetooth keyboard and keep the two screens.
This is for software like editing apps, audio apps, drawing, design photo, animation, storyboarding apps that need a viewport, a timeline and a bunch of palettes.
This is for touch and pen. You draw, change brush, move up the timeline and write in a layer name.
If you are already using the stylus then you don't even need a keyboard.
This is for those who might use a large Cintiq in the office or a bunch of mixing consoles, who now are out on the road and want to do the same tasks without a bunch of peripherals or struggling for screen real estate.
Hey and you can then take a break and read your emails, a comic or a magazine. I've been talking about this device for years and 2019 is still too far away.
Many will hate, just like when they didn't think smartphones because you can't use a phone without 'physical' buttons.
I heard it all and showed them my tablet and smartphone, they whined and scoffed and salivated.... later they bought one.
'join us'. Mwahahaaaa.
It'll start out as a special pc aimed at people who will benefit from the form factor, and through these it will slowly gain traction in the general populace... Maybe. But it won't try to be the game changer from the get go.
while iOS, even though it's a mess at this point and complicated, still has the brand awareness as easy to use and simple and safe.
and google is just google, quick, easy no hassle. Microsoft in trying to join Windows mobile and desktop played to their greatest strength in one realm, but also their greatest weakness in another.
I agree with you man. WC is changing the narrative.
To be productive, I need real keys.
This is why I would probably pass on a dual screen tablet, unless there is a radical change in the method of input.
me that a folding 2 screen 7 or 8 inch tablet can work. One screen displays the
applications and the other screen controls or modify's the applications be they
a document, Machine controller, Game, Music or Video editor ect. Smart
developers could really make some very interesting apps for a 2 screen Windows
10 core OS mini Tablet. the original Courier was dropped because it lacked
certain software and did not use the Windows OS that Microsoft was developing
at the time Windows 8. The Centaurus will be an exotic PC however Microsoft
should get over the idea all phones should be smart phones and and put a
feature phone in the case on an Centaurus. People buy feature phones
instead of smart phones because they are cheaper and get the job done &
service plans are cheaper too. such a phone inside a Centaurus would merge the
PC & phone as one device in the cheapest best way
sound strange but there are people who buy simple cell phones that are not Smart
phones with "FEW APPs". Microsoft and others have to get over this idea that a device
with a phone in it has to have a smart phone with tons of Apps. All the Centaurus
device needs is a Cell phone with the same Apps an Executive has on his wall
wired phone that is on his office Desk. This will make the Centaurus a
TRUE BUSINESS NO NONSENSE BUSINESS Tablet. This is what the Centaurus Needs
to sell better in the Market place. A foldable single or 2 screen tablet is cool but if
it has a business phone in it. Folks can get more use out of it PERIOD ps