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New Surface 'Andromeda' patent points to exterior inking

Andromeda's existence is all but confirmed, owing to reams of patents and rumors, but whether or not the device will ever see the light of day remains to be seen. What will be seen, however, are all the juicy patents relating to its potential capabilities.

This latest patent (thanks, Steven) seems to point to the idea of inking on the external shell of Andromeda, in order to send notes or sketches digitally to your device. We've heard previous rumors about Andromeda having some form of external sensitivity for things like button presses, but this is the first time we've been given the idea that it could be sensitive enough to transcribe notes and doodles.

The patent specifically describes a "cover" that has some form of user interface designed to receive inputs from a stylus, in order to translate them digitally to the device's main displays. The patent notes how that how, even in a closed state, users will be able to interact with the "foldable display device" using this method.

This past week, Microsoft announced a slate of new Surface devices, but as we expected, no Andromeda. The more patents that emerge related to Microsoft's mysterious pet project, the cooler it seems like it could be. As usual, patents don't necessarily mean the features would make it into a live product, if the live product ever makes it out of Microsoft's labs at all, that is, but it shows that the Surface team are at least exploring unique input methods for its grand pocketable PC experiment. It would be quite handy for taking quick notes without fully engaging the device's displays, nontheless.

What do you make of this patent? Will Andromeda ever see the light of day? Hit the comments.

Everything we know about 'Surface Andromeda'

Jez Corden
Jez Corden

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

130 Comments
  • Please let it be an epaper with inking capability!
  • As per Jez... "Andromeda's patent-o-rama continues". I'm sure MS (the great dreamer of dreams) will PATENT inking capability. Meanwhile some Android OEM will deliver it. In fact, they already have... the Galaxy Note! https://www.cnet.com/reviews/samsung-galaxy-note-9-review/
  • I've been inking on my Surface Pro for years. Your point is...?
  • Hell, I was inking on an XP tablet edition in the early 2000s as well as on Pocket PCs. Apple fans can certainly bring up the Newton from 1993. Inking isn't new, by any means, nor is it exclusive to Apple, MS, Google (Samsung). The question is whether it is a compelling, useful feature, or a gimmick that does little more than mitigate fat fingers on a small screen.
  • An epaper with inking would be sick! If this dropped I would be so tempted. At the same time, I'd also be inclined to wait for the second gen
  • 2nd gen's always superior.
  • No, 3rd gen is.
  • So is 4th gen and so on. The only caveat is if design gets based on telemetry.... I have not seen a good product design that has come from using telemetry as design principle. Sure, it can aid decision making but it should not be used as justification to reduce features or functionality. The purpose of tech is to move forward not backwards and before someone numpty takes my own words out of context. There must be moral boundaries, one cannot give up morality nor decency in the pursuit of progress.
  • Agreed
  • Morality and decency are subjective.
  • Objective morality exists outside the personal preferences of individuals.
  • After 4th is canceled! The best of MS!
  • damn, i might be dead then. lols
  • It is no good if stylus does not fit inside the device....If it does, where is the hole?!
  • What if the device IS the stylus? You don't need a hole then, do you?
  • Depending on what hole you prefer, I still need a hole. #Holes4life!
  • @netmann, use the Surface Pen or any other Ntrig capable Stylus. This will allow a better accessory ecosystem.
  • Hate to admit it, but Samsung actually got this right. Their S-Pen was not only pretty standard Wacom, so you could get lots of third party options, but they also made a pen sleeve you could slide it into for better ergonomics than writing with a toothpick. I'll agree, that a silo is critical on a phone sized device, or you'll never have your pen/stylus when you think about using it. I have a couple of 8" Asus tablets (Windows) that have a stylus silo, and that does make them way more useful.
  • Agreed, silo should be there on the top edge of the devise and stylus should pop up by triple-tap on the screen....
  • the problem with Microsoft is people always wait for 2nd gen and then Microsoft gives up because no desire for said product.
  • Let's hope they learned from (the many) past mistakes, and actually stand by a new product for a good period before giving up.
  • Lol you're still a dreamer. Never lose that
  • 😄😄 Where would we be without dreams?
  • They did it with the first Surface. It went quite well.
  • Different regime
  • The Surface 3 came into existence after Nadella was at the helm And after the second version there was talk of it being canned.
  • Maybe Ballmer wasn't so bad after all... 🙄
  • Microsoft will have a Windows alternative to iOS or Android. I have no idea whether it will be successful or not, but it will come. Just say it’s real! Hopefully, Microsoft fans will get on board to try to make it a success.
  • If it is burdened with the Windows brand, it will have a very hard fight. It is time for a new brand, Windows doesn't work for mobile. People only use Windows because they have to, not because they want to.
  • This is actually a sensible comment from you I'm surprised. Even though I don't fully agree you do have a point. The only dilemma is what to name it so that it's familiar without being to far from what it really is.
  • He actually makes a lot of sensible comments. It's just his execution and delivery of his pov that pisses ppl off
  • They just need to use the surface name imo.
  • I am not sure about that. Might be too close to Windows. If it is truly amazing, it probably doesn't matter what they call it.
  • What "People" are you referring to?
  • Normies
  • Yup.
  • If that was indeed true, Macs would be selling a lot more. Same for Chromebooks...
  • Normies don't use those as their main computing devices though so I disagree. They use cell phones...and yes, they do sell more.
  • He was talking about Windows, so a smartphone-reference is pointless. Windows is a PC OS exclusively these days, so I'm comparing it to other PC OSes, naturally.
  • So you just ignore that cell phones can replace laptops for many people?
  • So also I have to use android and ios not because I want to, but because I have to.
  • I reckon this could be the most difficult hardware device that they've ever produced.
  • Truly amazed people still think this thing will see the light of day.
  • After hearing Panay declared on The Verge that "A pocketable Surface is ‘absolutely my baby’" couple days ago, I began to believe that would happen. If it comes with adequate Telephony features, it will be a successful product. I will jump back from Note 9 if its inking features and Continuum capability are decent.
  • Someone needs to tell Panos that UWP is already dead. Without a platform to develop on... this device is a pipe dream.
  • They're gonna go for PWA's, it's the only way to (try to) fill the App Gap.
  • It was designed to fill the app gap for Chromebooks. That is a double edged sword for Microsoft.
  • So what if PWA's also run on chromebooks? Chromebooks are here to stay anyway. As long as there are apps for Andromeda...And of course the Device (Andromeda) and OS need to be awesome...
  • Chrome and edge renders differently. Pwas can run on anything, yeah, but developers may Target pwas to run best on chrome browser thus Chromebooks and it only takes a slight degradation to turn off a normies from one platform to another
  • Chromebooks are nothing like this supposed Andromeda device. No argument.
  • You're right, Chromebooks are successful devices being used by a thousand different educational facilities across the nation, whereas this Andromeda device is nothing but a pipe dream for windows Phone fans to cling to.
  • At this point there is no doubt about Andromeda.
    And for Chromebooks, well if you heard Eminem's latest diss track against MGK: "This is it, as big as you're gonna get, so enjoy it".
  • Nothing wrong with dreaming...sometimes they come true 😉
  • Are you a developer?
  • The surface mini was also his baby. Doesn't mean it'll see the light of day
  • True. But this is a much more revolutionary device; a completely new category!
  • It probably is. He probably has tons of prototype revolutionary devices. I'm just saying that, I wouldn't put too much weight on him saying that meaning a device is coming out
  • It is a pure waste of time to second-guess someone's words while you don't know for sure. The fact is this is the very first time we have heard from an MS high-level manager to openly admit the long-rumored project is in the work. There are so many patents have been announced about the design. The only thing that is holding the project back is the Windows Core OS development which also affects the Surface Hub 2 project.
  • A foldable device with a stylus is a category that Samsung is already years ahead of Microsoft on. Even if both companies were to release their products at the same time, only the Samsung device would have an app store available that didn't blow chunks. And yes, a foldable device that fits in your pocket will absolutely need a good app store.
  • If you keep thinking of it as a phone then you need an app store. But they don't really. Think of it as a Windows 10 PC that folds and fits in your pocket. You want apps? Run Android in an emulator, better yet they could ship the device with one. Folding phones have been done, styluses have been done, what hasn't been done is a full PC that can fit in your pocket. I think the phone functionality is really so people don't have to have two devices, you don't need a tablet AND a phone, if you can just walk around with one of these. And if you stop to think about it that's what the reasoning behind the Surface brand is.
  • Depends on what you think is a 'full PC' that fits in your pocket, whether it hasn't been done. If that implies Windows 10, then yea, it hasn't really been done, but are you sure you want it. It has been clear over many iterations, that Windows (desktop) and the associated apps, don't really scale down well to smaller (touch) screens. I've had 8"-9" windows machines (tablets) with XP through Win 10 on them, and they weren't particularly pleasant until we got 'tablet' mode and everyone seems to hate that. So, what do you think you are going to run on this 'pocketable' 'full windows' device, if you don't want tablet mode and store/PWA apps designed for it. If you are good with those sorts of apps, why wouldn't you call iOS and Android devices real PCs. All you get out of Full Windows is apps that you wouldn't want to interact with at anything smaller than 10" at best. The smallest such device right now, the Surface Go, folded in half, would approximate an iPad mini. Not sure I'd call that especially pocketable, or something I'd want to hold up to my ear. Honestly, for me, something akin to the 950XL, running Win 10 in S mode would be just fine. The store apps generally already do (did) scale well. Continuum would be sort of irrelevant as I could hook an external monitor, keyboard, mouse, to an S mode device. Nothing special to create there. You can already buy 128-512GB phones. That's more than many desktop PCs need. I suppose if you could run S, you could upgrade and install Chrome, VS, Photoshop, Project, Visio, but would you really ever want to run those on a 6" screen, or 8-10" for that matter? Even twice the size of something that fits in my pocket still isn't really practical for running those things I currently have a laptop/desktop for.
  • I would assume that the "Andromeda OS" we keep hearing of would help with the small screen issues. But two 950xl screens that have a seam between them and Windows S mode? that's pretty much what Andromeda will be. Remember that MS is basically ever present on Android these days so they don't actually need to have a Windows Mobile platform be a big seller. Android will synch with the your phone app so does MS really need to sell a **** ton of Andromedas? Not really. A phone is a cloud end point for MS.
  • Surface Go is pretty much the surface mini so 🤷🏻‍♂️
  • No, it's very different and YEARS later so... And before you ask:
    Different screen aspect ratio
    Different screen size
    Different orientation for holding the device
    Different processor
    Different architecture
    Different os
    Different material
    Different screen tech So... 🤷🏾‍♂️
  • Did you have to "GO" there?
  • Does not matter what panay says. What matters is what MS actually does and so far, in the mobile sector it has done nothing. It's attempt at putting a skin on android, launcher, is just awful.
  • One can only hope.... One Day... 🙏🏼
  • Lol right. Not only that, but what exactly is this thing going to do that smartphones don't do better? I cannot think up a use case for it. Anything it does, phones like the Note 9 will probably do better.
  • Surface Andromeda is not targeting at the consumers. Instead, MS is trying to carve out a productivity mobile platform under Windows 10 and serve the enterprises, school, hospital, military, commercial/industrial market or prosumers. I have a Note 9. Its S Pen and Dex are great. The Dex Pad is especially impressive, but it doesn't mean much for those work in the W10 ecosystem and relying solely on the W10 apps. Continuum would play an important role if it is built correctly.
  • Andromeda probably isn't going to run legacy Windows apps, even the Surfacehub 2X will not run Win32 if rumors are true. You lose businesses right there if that is true. Either way, the business market is where mobile platforms go to die, not flourish. Microsoft needs consumer success for Andromeda, Enterprise success will get them nothing.
  • That "targeting" is where Ms fails every time
  • Maybe the Note 9, or any other Android/iPhone, will do the same things like Andromeda. But I don't want to use Android or iOs.
  • You are unique. Most people don't want to use Windows, they just have to.
  • Ridiculous comment. Why aren't we seeing Macs or Chromebooks at every turn, then?
    Lots of people don't care all that much about the OS; they buy an iPhone because "that's what you buy if you can afford it" or they buy an android phone because that's what they can afford. And they buy a Windows device because that's what'll run those programs they like or need...
  • People want to use iOS and Android though. Mac's and Chromebooks don't run iOS or Android and that's why they don't sell just like windows doesn't sell for leisurely activities. Desktop computing form factors are for work and people get them bc they have to if they want to get a specific computing task done. Their main computing device for normies is the phone
  • Lots of tasks are better performed on a larger display, but a tablet or small 2-in-1 takes up a lot of space; Andromeda could be the perfect device for me for my yearly inspection of listed buildings.
    For the regular consumer, this could be the form factor to replace the smartphone AND the laptop, although obviously it won't be for everyone, initially at least...
  • Agreed, Lots of tasks are performed better...mundane or work related tasks. If it's a "task", it already means it's someone ppl have to do an not necessarily want to or enjoy doing. That's his point!
  • Are the current apps youre using made on legacy code? If the answer is yes this Andromeda device is not for you.
  • If you really believe your first paragraph, put the software you use on something that supports remoting into and try it with MSs remote desktop app on iOS and Android devices. That could be phones or tablets. Even iPad Mini. Then come back and comment on the effectiveness of that process without redesigning the applications for the formfactor. I'll predict you won't like the experience. You can emulate full windows on a phone right now remoting into a Windows machine or an Azure VM. It's not pleasant, but can be the difference between getting something done and not getting it done in a timely manner. If you want it to be usable, you have to redesign the applications to take advantage of the physical form factor of the device. If you have to do that, no reason not to do that for iOS/Android, rather than a device that doesn't exist.
  • For me it only has to do one simple thing... Not send all my data to Google. That's enough for me to buy it.
  • Get an iPhone then 😂
  • Given Microsoft's penchant for double-speak, I won't hold my breath. Having said that I will buy it, although I will be researching where the devices are actually made before buying it full price. Otherwise it would be off ebay or something... I really need a device like this... It would make my life sooo much easier. I've been reduced to sketching on paper again because... the company insists I use... Google apps for everything! Bleugh, makes my job ten times harder especially when Google's app refuse to work properly with Edge or Firefox - I have to enable and disable hardware acceleration to make them work properly.
  • Not trolling. Serious inquiry. Do you mind elaborating on the "Having said that.. " paragraph? I'm interested in your reasoning.
    But if you don't want to, I understand...
  • Very unlikely it will be Win32 compatible. Even Surfacehub 2 is rumoured to not be compatible with legacy Windows programs.
  • Why not? They run win 32in emulation
  • I just don't see a market where Ms feels this makes sense. I don't see a world wanting windows with win32 or a normie downloading BlueStacks if it was possible in lieu of the Android device they already own.
  • So you want full windows, in a pocketable device, so you can run Android apps in an emulator? Why not just run Android?
  • He's expressing doubt, but also hopefulness.
  • You're right. People here don't realize every frequent visitor of this site has a used and desire for Andromeda. Ms doesn't care about us though. We aren't their target market. We are too far and few in between.
    It's the normies Ms wants but enterprise that they cater too bc that's their bread and butter. Andromeda doesn't make sense for normies yet
  • ??
    No, he's hypothesizing about where he would be making his supposed purchase. I was just interested in hearing his reasonings for his said options bc I found it interesting and was hoping to learn something new
  • Then use Chrome for Chrome apps only. I do mobile Dev for Chrome and Safari but I do all my web searches on Firefox among other things. There is this things as opening different apps and using it for different things.
  • It is one thing to have any surface accept inking input from your finger or stylus. The question is how the input is manipulated by software. In this case, the surface may have no visible output, but the input would be transferred into a file that would display using another screen, whether the screen was part of the device or displayed to another device. Let's say you are drawing or editing a file with a group and the file is displayed on a larger screen. Seems odd, but I can see how you could participate in the group activities without physically interacting with the main display. Let's say you have your own block. As you jot down notes, the input is transferred to this block. In any case, the software would have to predict what you are doing and offer a path to display your input.
  • Well, my money is ready, switched to BB from Lumia 1020, been waiting patiently and my next device will be this one or a BB Key3. FU Apple, FU Google.
  • My Lord! Tell me your not using a 1020 as your only device going into '19
  • It still beats the crap out of 500€-Androids.
  • Ps2 beats Sega Genesis... I'd hope that wouldn't be your main console going into '19 Plus I'd beg to differ but you can find crap anywhere. Otoh, 1020 isn't better than the essential ph1
  • The camera on the 1020 is so slow, it is basically useless. You cannot rely on it. That device was criminally underpowered. It has have been about to take good pictures, but it was hard to do since Microsoft was years behind in SoC support.
  • I think he means spec for spec resolution wise only. As far as experience, NOTHING of those days beats modern phones
  • Today I attempted to actually use my iPad for something other than reading news, or Facebook. I foolishly used the camera for convenience this past weekend, and wanted those pictures in my Onedrive. I have the Apple USB dongle, and thought I would throw them on a thumbdrive. Yes, I could have used iCloud, but I only sacrificed my computer to that once, and learned from my mistake. Haha, any thumbdrive drops an error that it takes too much power; even plugged in. Wow. No Windows tablet, or Windows phone has ever done that to me, but then Onedrive also works fairly seamlessly, and I rarely use a thumbdrive going that route. I had to look up how to make Onedrive automatically download from the iOS photo bin since Apple pretty much disallows that from default. A couple minutes later, settings changed, and my photos are safely tucked away in a Onedrive folder. I'm telling you I'm on my second Lumia 950 XL. The first finally suffered the drop of death. I have a couple of 950s stashed away as an emergency. These Windows phones won't last forever, and eventually the software will be too outdated. I really only bought that iPad Mini to have a bigger screen, and for the camera software that linked to my digital cameras. Turns out the software was crap, and one isn't even supported or manufactured anymore. Microsoft isn't the only company that can leave a customer hanging with expensive gear. All this hardware/software drama, and manufacturers burning their customer base. I'd still buy the first generation of Andromeda. There will always be something better and newer. The next product generation will hopefully be better (excluding Windows Vista, or Windows Phone 8). Continue to put off until the next better tool comes along, but you could have been actually doing something, and helping to make a product better at the same time. I've been burned, and I swear I've learned my lesson, but I'll fall over my feet to get to the Andromeda device if it comes out. Even my Windows Phone just works better than Apple or Android devices. Microsoft finally seems to be going where I want to go.
  • “These Windows phones won't last forever, and eventually the software will be too outdated.” Eventually? They are already way outdated. I had several Windows phones. Icon, 1520, 950XL. Sold them all on eBay and moved on.
  • I have some Palm and Handspring module phones. They do what they're supposed to do.
  • I have them. They work. I didn't say I use them. Your use of "luddite" is almost entertaining. I don't waste technology and resources because some corporation wants another dollar. If something comes along that is more efficient, then I'm interested. I don't support fashion technology. You can if you want to I guess.
  • My former use of Palm and Handspring products would make me an early adopter of smartphone technology, and not a technology fashionista drooling on Apple's latest "invented" technology. Hardly a luddite.
  • This would be fantastic. Sounds more futuristic the more rumours I see/hear. Problem is they are only rumours right now. If this is released at an affordable (non ridiculous) price then I'm buying one EL PRONTO!
  • Surface plus
  • yes e-ink! The lenovo one looks pretty cool already. Just make it a 360 hinge and we're golden.
  • I have no idea why everybody so negative about this device lol Jez Corden I will buy your steak dinner if it doesn't come out. The foldable device is going to be call surface Journal.
  • No. Surface skinz. Shorts for moleskin... and yes. With a Z
  • Something no one seems to be talking about: MS just announced that, through the forthcoming "Your Phone" features, your Windows 10 PC will be able to utilize the apps on your Android phone. If the Andromeda version of Windows 10 can offer this same feature, then suddenly your Andromeda can utilize your Android apps. No more app gap. Now, maybe the Andromeda OS won't support this. And if it does, you would have to carry around both your Android phone and your Andromeda, and presumably paying for a data plan for each device. But for people who can live with that and who are drawn to Andromeda's other features, this could be pretty cool.
  • I think they will try to fill the App Gap with PWA's.
  • This is the hardware equivalent of invoking Alexa through Cortana. Clunky at best. No one will use one mobile device to use another mobile device
  • After three years, I am tired of rumors...
  • This is getting even better.
  • As I predicted 2 years ago the mythical device, if produced, will have 4 screen yes that is 4. Wanna bet?
  • This would be awesome... But lets hope the screens on this device have rounded corners.
    I don't like it with the corners it has in the artist impression.
  • Gimme, Gimme, Gimme...... It will never happen. Too late Samsung Galaxy X
  • This won't be released any time in the near future. It's all just preparation for when they finally jettison Nadella and CAN actually build/release it lol.
  • This won't happen for a LONG time then. Nadella makes ms's stockholders too much money and that is showing NO signs of stopping anytime soon
  • it probably won't end up being what everyone thinks and i'll have to get a stupid android after all... but at least not until my L928 dies.
  • They announce as if people haven't experienced MS ******* off their customers. Announce it first, if it gets popular than be proud
  • Will Andromeda ever see the light of day? No.
  • I think 2019 is a key date for the debut of the Andromeda device for Many
    Windows smart phone users after that Microsoft will loose a lot of People who
    bought and are still using windows smart phone including me. I will probably
    buy an iPhone is Microsoft does not have an Andromeda device with a built
    in cell phones in by September 2019. The Andromeda device does not
    have to be something I can put in my pocket It could be a 7 inch single screen
    Andromeda"OS" device with a built in Cell phone running just full Windows 10
    I will buy it
  • I just wish they would make a laptop that replaces the trackpad with an inkable lcd screen and remove the touch screen from the main screen. Is it really that difficult to figure out this configuration?
  • What is there to be excited about? They will eventually kill the UWP Office apps so the chances that Andromeda will even be released are getting less and less.
  • interesting patent.
    I don't think andromeda device will make the light of day.
    If it does, it will live up to my expecatitions as a desirable device. For me the reason is software. Simply slapping on windows 10, without a tailored UI is a fail for me. The current tablet experience on windows 10 is half baked and a fragmented experience which makes it bad. This does not inspire confidence. I'm not worried about the hardware.
  • It is frustrating that we are not sure if Andromeda will ever or when it will be released. All we have seen, more patents and more Andromeda APIs with teleohony are being integrated into the next year Win10 os. One reason I could calm my frustration is that the shift towards CShell, WinCoreOS, two panels foldable 3in1 creates disruptive creativity that could be unprecedented Game Changer. Microsoft needs more time to get all IP protected before the public have a glimpse of how CShell (seen before in W10M demo) and WinCoreOS (seen in Surface Hub 2x demo) bieng integrated into 3in1. I hope engineers at Microsoft are smart enough to release (once all patents are done) these disruptive changes in stages so we do not need to wait till 2020 but next year
  • Not sure I trust MS and hardware anymore......lots of talk...
    Good tech - bad marketing.
    Beta vs. VHS...... PS - if it ever does come out - can I get a credit toward it,from the Windows Phones and
    MS Bands I purchased?
  • Spent $600 on a Lumia 950 XL listning to Microsoft CEO telling us that they would be fully committed to win 10 mobile if no one else would build the devices... HP and Alcatel then build two high end devuces and win 10 mobile goes on life support... I'm out of here....
  • Ended up with a 2 year contract with a BB Keyone to tide me over until MS release something, money is ready, im ready, is Satya Nadella ready, that is the question! My guess is that it will be released at the same time as all the newly redesigned Surface products next year, makes sense to do that, have cutting edge hardware that's 5G ready.
  • Will Andromeda ever be launched? Which side of the bed did Nadella get out of this morning? That's about as good as anyone else's guess.