Windows Central Podcast 142: A Surface Phone... with Android?

Surface logo
Surface logo (Image credit: Windows Central)

We're back with another exciting episode of the Windows Central Podcast, and this week, Zac Bowden is joined by special guest Mary-Jo Foley to talk about their hopes and dreams for a Surface Phone and Windows Core OS. They also look at features in 19H2 and 20H1 and discuss the possible emergence of Microsoft 365 as the company's dominant 'brand'.

This episode of the Windows Central Podcast was recorded on July 18 2019.

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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.

  • I'm sorry, but you can't convince me that Microsoft is "all in" on Android. And until Cortana is at LEAST as functional on Android as it is on Windows phones, MS will ALWAYS be an also-ran, playing 2nd and 3rd fiddle to everyone else. Pre-loading apps is a lame excuse. That means absolutely NOTHING.
  • Not 'nothing'... Motorola has at least one Android phone with built-in Alexa integration, where you can use it as the assistant in every way in place of Google Assistant... This phone (The Moto X4) also gets regular security updates... This isn't a forked version of Android... It is regular Android/Android One, with access to all the apps and services from the regular Play Store... If Microsoft can release a phone with a working 'Hey Cortana' option built in, with TIGHT integration with OneNote and their stylus, with regular Android security patches, they will have a WINNER...
  • Microsoft isn't "all-in" on Cortana on any platform. Doesn't mean they aren't heavily supporting Android.
  • That's literally impossible. Licensed android is locked, and apps don't have that kind of deep-level access. Android, at least with google mobile services, is proprietary. That would be like asking google assistant to run as well in windows 10, as it does on android, without co-operation from Microsoft.
  • Zac and Mary Jo are not very good liars. We will see “Andromeda” running Microsoft’s “Modern OS” with the ability to run Android Apps under the Surface brand from a Microsoft pocketable device.
  • No way they release Andromeda now. I doubt even Centarus will ever see the light of day. They probably will kill Lite before it is released.
  • Yes, over a decade of development on one core, biggest software project in commercial development history, dumped before it even gets to market. Makes perfect economic sense, lol. You know nothing jon snow.
  • One Core will still be used in other products, Windows Lite is just part of that. They have no attachment to Windows Lite and really no market for it beyond cannibalizing full Windows laptops. They will not be able to justify releasing it.
  • Andromeda and the surface phone is coming this October running windows light with android immolations
  • bingo bingo bingo
  • I didn't expect such a beginner argument by two Microsoft veterans like you. The key thing about the Surface Phone dream was that it's both a Surface and a Phone, so with an Android device you wouldn't have the PC experience you would expect from a device called Surface Phone. So what are you talking about? It's never gonna happen and why would an Android user buy such a phone bloated with Microsoft software?
    While a Microsoft device that is capable of running Android apps is a different thing and I can see the meaning of it. Microsoft has lost the smartphone market and that's clear, I think that the only thing they can do and probably will is to market the next generation of always connected portable PC and attack the classic smartphones from another point of view. At least that is a PC so if it won't replace your smartphone it doesn't care, but it will replace your laptop.
  • They are going to attack smartphones with laptops, as if not having a constant internet connection is the reason laptops aren't more mobile? That makes no sense.
  • I don't mean laptops, but portable PCs with a small form factor and a screen....basically they are smartphones running full Windows XD
  • I have an "always on portable PC" in my hand now. It has a mature ecosystem, works darn nearly perfectly, and is readily available everywhere. What advantage can Microsoft bring? Antiquated desktop app emulation if you connect it to an external display with a keyboard and mouse? You really think Microsoft will go down that path? Really?
  • Why make an Android Surface Phone? Because the design language for Surface is far superior to the all glass Samsung Phone. Plus out of all the Samsung devices I have owned. Both the Windows Phone and my current, 8+, I hate it. Looks nice but buggy and problematic. Plus Samsung loves to destroy the Android experience with their own overlay. If M produces a Surface Phone that I can dock and use as a PC as well, I will by it today.
  • @Morgan, I'm sorry but your argument for Android Surface Phone doesn't really make sense at all. Just because Samsung likes to put their own skin on it doesn't simply warrant a Android Surface Phone. Microsoft did have a docking experience, called Continuum but that was never fully developed on WM10.
  • It's kind of telling how bad Microsoft is as a consumer brand that when Zac Bowden and Mary Jo Foley bring up Microsoft 365, third party assistants, and Teams For Life that the general opinion from both of them is... Meh or worse.
  • Well, blame that on Microsoft's consumer retrenchment - another misstep which the current CEO Satya Nadella will have to own as it occurred under his watch. The other is axing the mobile division, thus making Microsoft miss the mobile spectrum again which would be the third time despite being on forefront the first time. The first I would say occurred under Bill Gates when they failed to unify the store experience and UX when Microsoft had massive mindshare with PDAs. You had to download .cab files from many different store fronts from oems or from sites like Additionally, the UX was a crappy experience when it came to touch. The second occurred under Steve Ballmer when they responded to the iPhone too late and with an o/s experience that had zero enterprise features and did not have many key features. Also removing the ability of developers being able to load custom roms, which was a massive market for Wm6.x. Android filled the gap that was left by Microsoft in terms of that ability. On both these occasions Microsoft was at the forefront, the third Microsoft was gaining momentum in many markets.
  • I'm going to try and focus on the positives here. I think Microsoft did a pretty good job with Windows Phone and needs to pick back up the mobile effort with a smartphone running Windows Lite. I think the Nokia acquisition was a good decision. I think buying Skype was a bad idea. It's basically it's own brand of messaging when everyone else was setting things up in-house. I want Windows Phone to come back with Windows Lite. Terry Myerson had some good ideas and I hope there is still consideration for that at Microsoft. Something that I think Sayta is working on that seems like a really good idea is I think he and Microsoft in general is trying to find a common code language (with Rust maybe?) that someone can write one code for all platforms. Sayta was in a difficult position when he became CEO.
  • Sorry, but the podcast made me want to give up the dream of Andromeda altogether. That it's not just postponed... but... cancelled! I've always thought it would at least come after Centaurus was in play. But MJF sounded like it's *never* gonna happen, and Zac pretty much so agreed. So... what now? Just give in and start developing for Android?
  • I agree with MJF's doubt Centarus will see the light of day, let alone Centarus. There is just no point for either device. Why would I buy Centarus instead of a full fledge Surface Pro?
  • I agree with her take on Your Phone. Your Phone is a great strategy, keeping ppls phones in their pocket, and I hope they continue with that. Centaurus has a lot of use cases, though, and I think the Surface team needs to stay innovative.
  • What use cases?
  • I like Zach and mary jo foley but they suck when they try to make a prediction.
  • It was a bit disappointing to hear MJF say Andromeda is never going to happen. I think the whole dual screen pocketable device may be questionable, but I think a pocket PC as just a single glass slab will eventually happen, if not by MS, but by a third party OEM. WCOS will totally support such a device. Once WCOS is out, OEMs will have the ability to play around with form factors. There will be people who will want a pocket PC that can dock as a full desktop. These pocket PCs will have LTE and telephony. These pocket PCs will slowly catch on, and will grow in demand as PWA fills out the app gap. The current situation where we pay over a thousand dollars for a phone and over a thousand dollars for a desktop/laptop, and then use a different app eco system between them is completely stupid. As time passes and phones get more and more powerful and expensive, people will start to economize and cut back somewhere. The new iPadOS is a real threat to Windows since the biggest limitation of iOS is multitasking and usable file system. These enhancements will make iPadOS closer to a PC. If iOS gets this, and then you can dock an iPhone or iPad, it is all over for Microsoft. It will become less and less compelling to buy that PC. This is why Microsoft can't really be practical here. They can't look at it in a short term mindset of device profitability. They need to secure the pocket PC OS market, and that means getting WCOS out there and getting a Surface Pocket PC out there for OEMs to emulate. Forget this dual screen crap. And forget about it initially being profitable. Otherwise either iOS or Android will be the universal OS for all form factors. Microsoft lost phones, but they need to wake up and not lose the form factor agnostic device market.
  • "There will be people who will want a pocket PC that can dock as a full desktop" Why? Is everyone going to carry around a phone, dock, monitor, keyboard and mouse? Plus all the cables? It is far easier to carry a laptop. Or do you expect hotels/restaurants/airports/street corners/everywhere else to have the dock, monitor, keyboard and mouse for you? Plus all the cables? "As time passes and phones get more and more powerful and expensive, people will start to economize and cut back somewhere." This has already happened. Phones are already extremely powerful. People HAVE cut back. Which explains why 5 times more phones were sold last year than Windows PCs. Given the choice, most people would rather have a good phone than a good Windows PC. Why? Because the phone is far more practical for day-to-day use. Today's phones ARE "pocket PCs". No one cares that they are not running Windows. In fact, most people are happy that their phone is not running Windows. People had the chance to buy a phone running Windows, and virtually no one wanted it. Why? Because people have enough problems dealing with Windows at work, where they need entire IT departments to help them. "They need to secure the pocket PC OS market" It is WAY too late for that. We all have "pocket PCs with LTE and telephony" right now. We just call them "phones". Why? Because "always connected PC" is a stupid name.
  • Exactly. This person gets it. Microsoft will not release any of these new devices or platforms. They will not be able to justify their existence, especially when they realize they compete with full Windows 10 first and foremost.
  • The smartphone market is shrinking. The PC market has shown growth for the last few years. People are spending increasingly less money on phones, updating them less often, and more money on PCs, primarily laptops. The update cycle for phones is moving to 5 years plus. Modern phones do all a phone needs to do. Even apple is shifting it's profit model. Most western households average 3 device per person. Your commentary shows no insight into actual market data. The reality isn't that it's one, or the other, it's both. Only developing nations use smartphones INSTEAD of all other devices. All that said, what will replace smartphones is more likely a combination of devices, diversification, as with the PC turning into laptops, 2 in 1s, tablets and smartphones. Likely we will have smartphones replaces with all voice devices, small scrolling devices, foldable 'tablets', and AR glasses with much of the OS workload moving to the cloud. It won't be a 'pocket PC', although that concept might work well with both folding tablets and AR, if microsoft continues refining. Android? Not as much. It's a multiple form factor and input method scheme, and android has not adapted much if at all to those. Voice, yeah, they have an edge. Touch on small screens however, is not the dominant future. People are always thinking in small terms, with current cultural biases. The same thinking that lead people to scoff at smartphones taking some market from desktops, is the one that thinks small screen touch is eternal. It's not. We face a future of ubitiqous computing, and only really microsoft, however ungainly, is truely attempting to real for. Can you imagine a world where you fridge wants to talk to your pants, which wants to talk to freds pants, and his fridge, and none of them play together because some are apple, some microsoft, and some google? Suddenly you can't access freds fridge because it's in the wrong app ecosystem. Or you can't work at jelly donuts corp because they are in apple. Silly, but serves the purpose of illustration. This is a consumer nightmare. What people get with current smartphones magnified to the point where one's house is a commercial battlefield. Either everyone co-operates (unlikely), or someone has to make the one thing that does it all. This is unprecedented in tech history, this vast interconnected network of computing that we depend on entirely. Old school thinking doesn't cut it. It doesn't matter about pocket PCs or smartphones or whatever other temporary technology. What matters is that single platform, single form factor, single input technology is going to go the same way as the typewriter; relegated to nostalgic collectors and hippies. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter much who makes the leap, but that someone is trying to do it. Anything else, will be like bringing the war of the tech giants, into our deeply personal lives.
  • Lots of people have docking stations on their desktop. Heck my laptop docking station has a keyboard, mouse, and *three* monitors. So yeah, a true pocket PC would allow you to bring your entire PC with you wherever you go, but dock it back at the office. Now throw in a lapdock, and yeah, we could take that wherever we go for an enhanced typing experience too. There is a strong *business* case for such a device.
  • Thank you Drael646464 and jp144 for coming to my defense. Drael646464, I really like how you state that single form factor devices, operating systems, and app eco systems, will be a thing of the past. I totally agree. I tried to express something like that in a blog article: written back in early 2018. Microsoft has had what I consider the proper long term vision for computing for some time now. I'm very excited to see it starting to unfold. I've been very impatient and have anxiety that the world won't get it.
  • That vision never pans out for anyone. Google tried the same thing, so did Microsoft. Even Apple is now separating iPad and iPhone operating systems. This idea is dead. It will eventually just be PWA, but then operating systems won't matter.
  • I think Microsoft needs to watch out for Google's Fuchsia. That operating system could be really disruptive. It seems to try to be a universal OS.
  • This is a joke right? Or your society wasn't fully developed like for instance, your group of friends having game night... Did your group meet at other places or was it just cult style? Did your friend with the Personal Computer get the opportunity to show you how amazing a PC is? Smooth graphics on a 60in tv beats the hot potato everyday. You can also make calls with a tablet but let's be honest all that zooming in is annoying
  • A Surface Phone with Android? Well I don't actually own a phone but I do like Skype on my desktop, If the phone has the Windows logo on the back of it, I would consider it. But I'm not desperate for a phone by any means.