Microsoft may be working on a Surface Studio Monitor and an ambient Cortana device

Surface Family
Surface Family (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft watcher Brad Sams has revealed in his new book several upcoming Surface products that are rumored to be in the works internally. I have heard from several sources in the past that Microsoft is working on a table-top speaker, powered by Cortana, that will focus on keeping you productive in meetings at work or around the house. Sams' new book, called Beneath A Surface, further confirms these plans, noting that an "ambient computing device" is something Microsoft is prototyping internally.

In addition, Beneath A Surface reveals that Microsoft is also working on bringing a modular Surface Studio to the market in the 2020 timeframe. A modular Surface Studio would allow for users to have different configurations of the device, including a hub module that allows the studio to be used as a monitor. This is something that fans have been asking for ever since Microsoft introduced the original Surface Studio in 2016. Take that same design, add the ability to pull out the built-in computer, and use it as a monitor. That could finally be happening in 2020.

Sams' book also suggests that Microsoft is looking into building Surface products with AMD chips inside, as Intel continues to drop the ball when it comes to moving to its new 10nm processors. We could see an AMD powered Surface Laptop as soon as next fall, which would line up alongside the unveiling of Microsoft's foldable tablet, Andromeda. The book also mentions that Andromeda might be larger than expected, something ZDNet's Mary-Jo Foley reported hearing back in the summer.

Making Andromeda larger would remove it from being a pocketable device, turning it into even more of a spiritual courier successor than it already was. Andromeda was originally going to be Microsoft's next mobile device, a handset that when folded would fit in your pocket and take calls and texts. If these new rumors are true, Andromeda won't be that product by the time it ships.

Beneath A Surface is on sale now (opens in new tab), and is packed with internal insight into the world of Surface. What are your thoughts on the these rumored Surface devices? Let us know in the comments.

Updated December 1 2018: Clarified Surface Studio rumors.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

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.

  • "Andromeda might be larger than expected"... We already have Surface Pro and Surface Go, who needs another "small" Surface device??? What the heck Microsoft!
  • Agreed, a pocketable mobile replacement is what is needed, and wanted.
  • Also, if it can't fit into your pocket, then there isn't really any need to fold it.
  • I disagree with that, I'd still like a folding device even if it doesn't fit into a pocket. It doesn't hurt and still makes it more portable than if it didn't fold.
  • Laptops fold and they don't fit into your pocket so...
  • It was never the vision of MS to bring over a pocketable mobile device, only Warditorials sold those dreams and now reality bites I guess
  • The whole world is changing to a more smartphonesque environment and it's not because of Jason Ward's articles. It's a complex dynamic of child rearing on smartphones thus leading to teen addiction of smartphones as the phones literally become a part of their identity. Thus a fashion statement therefore more sleek looking devices with form over functionality (in terms of battery life) as result smartphones become the sole computing device most people own. Which increases the want for a simplified UX (We have Google advertising Chromebooks - that are laptops that function like a smartphone) and lower usage of features that power users use daily. It's that simplicity that sold and sells the bulk amount of iphones and ios devices. Within that simplicity you have mechanics in play to retain users in that ecosystem through accessories and connected services. As these connected teens get into the work force they will bring their habits and want for simplified UX with them - as result byod spikes and chromebooks make more headway in the enterprise - throw in Gsuite into the mix. As a result Microsoft has to have a pocketable device that is transient beyond the smartphone if they are to hold any sort of mindshare in the computing spectrum. Xbox is key to that and xcloud is an major play in that regard. In addition Xcloud will need to be bolstered by hardware and a connected accessory ecosystem if they are to grow mindshare. Without this growth in mindshare the entire WMR platform falls into jeopardy (So you need to look at other revenue points to offset the losses and R'n'D costs for AR and VR - i.e. the bid to win the Army contract for hololens for instance) as well as the entire effort for Windows on ARM. To bolster WoA, they will need apps and for that they Universal APIs, Universal Drivers and the Universal App Platform itself. Given that UWP ties in every single device that runs windows, it needs significant investment. To become the worlds computer they will need hardware to showcase the best of the infrastructure and what it can do. Within that you have another facet of transitional computing - gestures and voice - therefore you need a Nexus point that allows user interaction whilst showcasing the best of the entire infrastructure on offer. Going forward, the next big element for big data is home automation and without a single point of communication whether it's a speaker or pocketable device... the entire game plan to becomes the world computer falls flat on it's face as growth becomes restricted (to presume Google, Amazon, Apple will not want a slice of that market is tantamount to insanity). Once growth becomes restricted, a company will incur losses and will have to resort to drastic action or face stagnation and decay. A pocketable device is the centre point for everything as it's the only device that is able to authenticate a person, verify a person and enables said person's interaction with services whatever they maybe.
  • Its not uncommon to see many companies miss the obvious n die. Ur comments makes compelling argument as to why MS shd do it but doesn't mean MS is doing it
  • Exactly. I'm now wondering how long my 950 can hold out. I just can't see myself pulling the trigger on an iOS or android device. There's nothing out there more compelling Windows Mobile for me.
  • I hope that's all it is, a rumour. I hope it's going to closer size to Samsung's foldable phone. I want something that will give me that Windows Mobile start screen.
  • Would a Table-top speaker - Dial combo, say Cortana Dial be pointless?
  • That would be pretty neat actually, as it would remove clutter and be more efficient. Imagine, you're working on a touch screen device with the dial putting finishing touches on a logo design before a tight deadline. A call comes in, you simply ask Cortana to pick up the call. So you instead of having to fish around for a hands free kit or stick your phone under your ear and do bent head+hold phone yoga position. You just talk normally whilst working. This has the added benefit of making collaboration much easier too.
  • I just simply look at that Dial in the middle and it looks exactly like a mini Bluetooth speaker I have. I'm not sure what's inside a dial, but if half that space is a battery, it could perfectly be Cortana-powered.
  • I'm sure the Surface team could pull that off as they are certainly capable and extremely talented.
  • "Take that same design, pull out the built-in computer, and sell it as a monitor. That could finally be happening in 2020." Huzzah! Finally!
    Though...they could hurry up =P
  • Then we would need a Surface Mini to attach to it. They could daisy chain like the new Mac Mini.
  • @bleached Oh, go away lol... It's a monitor - so anyone who buys it will be using it as a monitor with additional capabilities.
  • What's wrong with a surface mini? Just saying, even if the messenger is bleached😀
  • @Monte Constable1 lol. Nothing wrong just the way bleached phrased the comment "then we would need a surface mini to attach to it", implying that removing the base of the Surface Studio would some how render the Monitor less capable.
  • I didn't mean it snarky, but it didn't make sense to me. Microsoft needs something to power it and it looks like I was right. This article is slightly incorrect. Reading Brad's post he says it won't be a standalone monitor, but an updated Studio that has a swappable "compute unit" similar to the Hub.
  • @bleached, got a link to that post you are referring to? Had quick look but was unable to find it.
  • No link but look for Brad Sams on yt. His last video titled something like cthese are the next surface devices"
  • @Mister Burns There is a link :), credit where it's due - thanks to bleached.
  • @bleached Cheers. Here is the extract from the above link for everyone else:
    "If you want a Surface monitor, this is as a close as you may get, an all-in-one PC with a swappable compute unit. I love this idea: monitors last much longer than CPUs and by being able to upgrade the ‘compute’ portion of the Surface Studio, this makes it easier to stretch the lifecycle of the product for the end-user.".
  • I want it for selfish reasons. Would be nice strapped to the back of my TV. 😁
  • That Surface Monitor better have a built-in USB-C hub for docking! (and all next Surface devices better enable TB3 docking)
  • I do love optimists🤗
  • It's a little late for a Cortana device don't you think? Even in a workplace environment. How many corporations are going to want a Cortana device in conference rooms? While I think it privacy issues from an always on listening device would be unfounded, I work for a very large health care organization and they're so paranoid about any PHI getting out there that they have everything locked down in triplicate.
  • AMD has been killing it lately so switching is something I'm all for. APU for the pro and laptop and descrete GPU on the book and studio. Even better would be to jointly devlop custom variants that are tailored for Surfaces. They already work together on Xbox, and I'm 99% sure Scarlett will end up being a custom Ryzen+Vega system, so doing custom Surface chips would just be a natural extension of that partnership.
  • While I just bought my second Invoke over Black Friday (have one in each color), I would love to see what a Surface Cortana Speaker looks and sounds like. Microsoft didn't invest in that audio company for nothing. Headphones, Speakers and the like should all be coming online and become staples of the Surface lineup.
  • it'd be nice if they bring whatever (if any) new features from a Cortana Speaker to the Invoke... the *first* Cortana speaker.
  • A do-it-yourself PC box product with Surface Studio monitor should be very ideal!
  • The Surface Studio base also looks like an ideal case for a HTPC too lol.
  • I wonder how much all of this is true. I don't trust Microsoft can keep their word, so hearing it from some watcher doesn't really increase my confidence level in them.
  • Andromeda is truly not a phone now. That made sense when MJF reported it, sounded the most plausible solution. Dual 9 or 10" screens running full Intel and Windows makes the most sense given Microsoft's ecosystem. Any chance of a new Windows phone is now forever dead. Releasing a Cortana speaker in 2019/2020? Why bother? It is already too late. How does Microsoft break into this category while being years behind? "Enterprise!" might be an avenue, but how long will it take for them to accept such advanced technology?
  • Enterprise is the key. I know Amazon is pushing for Alexa in business so it makes sense MS would
  • Finally, AMD inside Surface devices... yes please! Intels igpu offerings pale in comparison to AMD's igpu offerings. A Surface Pro with Vega would be a welcome change and damn a Surface Studio monitor that is compelling. Looks like will have to put some revamps on hold for awhile and the bonus for many of us who don't have the disposable cash - plenty of time to save up. The Cortana speaker - about damn time... I sure as heck hope it's not US only. I hope the Andromeda device is not that larger than earlier envisioned.
  • I want to smart display with cortana on it.
  • Just give me a 6' slate with WOA, pen support, mobile optimized UI/UX, telephony and a great camera and I would be happy. I don't need the folding gimmick.
  • In other words, you want a phone.
  • late to the party... 6" hehehe.. 6' might be a bit to big for your pocket.
  • Perhaps they'll consider 2 sizes of Andromeda, like they did with the Lumia 950 & 950XL. Then consumers could choose between a pocketable form factor, or a larger one.
  • There was a time when we used to be excited with what Microsoft is going to do next and that time is not 2018! Most of the products that they launch anyways never travel overseas....
  • Can anyone tell me where, in Brad Sam's new book, these rumors are mentioned?
  • I guess that it might all be in chapter 26.
  • Rumors and may, and could be and woulda and what might have been.