“Surface Phone”, “Surface Mini”: Microsoft has been working in secrecy on a mysterious device for two years, and it has racked up plenty of monikers. Internally codenamed Project Andromeda, it appears to be a portable device with two screens joined with a hinge.
Microsoft’s Surface has been at the forefront of its quest for tablet supremacy. First combining screen and pen on the Surface Pro, which was announced in 2012, Apple’s iPad dominates Microsoft’s devices in tablet sales, Microsoft’s pen-enabled Surface devices still rule the roost today.
Andromeda is speculated to be the latest in its line of Surface pen tablets.
Described as a “new and disruptive”, Microsoft’s dual-screen Andromeda is designed to be a completely new hardware experience. According to patents and leaks, it would sport a 360-degree hinge, not unlike many 3-in-1 laptops on the market.
The company’s internal codename was uncovered by French technology news site Numerama late May this year.
The Surface Pro had cemented its dominance by successfully disrupting the laptop with its design that blurred the lines between notebooks and tablets. Andromeda would need to be accompanied with a large array of applications to replicate this success. It is precisely this flaw that had led to the downfall of the Windows phone years ago.
Sharp-eyed developers noticed a variable “hinge value” which hints at Andromeda’s ability to recognise the posture it currently is in. This offers greater flexibility (no pun intended) for applications to adapt to different usage situations.
laptop mode & gaming mode pic.twitter.com/VRD8Z9wKgD
— David Breyer (@D_Breyer) June 30, 2018
It’s a strangely familiar design, going where many (unrealised) prototypes have gone before. Intel’s Tiger Rapids dual-screened portable tablet PC was debuted at CES 2018 this year, and Andromeda itself bears great similarity to its own Microsoft prototype: the Microsoft Courier.
We can expect a display that wraps around each half’s edge to maintain a seamless display between both screens even when it is ‘closed’.
Andromeda is reportedly being trialled on ARM processors, though it is possible that would proceed with other, more run-of-the-mill mobile processors.
For applications, Microsoft is reportedly working on a proprietary note-taking solution that fits perfectly with Andromeda’s two-screened design.
The hinge is an integral part of the design and an essential part of the solution. Microsoft had experimented with a tank-tread design on its latest Surface Book 2, which allowed for a detachable tablet screen, which also doubled to reduce screen bounce when used as a touch interface.
On the Andromeda is a geared mechanism that helps it to remain in its position. It probably would not be intended for desktop uses, since with the same weight, opening both screens to an oblique angle might cause it to tip over.
Microsoft is not alone in its quest for dual-display perfection. ASUS had announced Project Precog in an event during COMPUTEX 2018 in Taipei just last month. It is a laptop with two screens on either half, and is designed to take advantage of AI to meet users’ needs.
At least one consumer-oriented dual-screen device is expected to be delivered by the end of the year.