Andromeda
Image source: WindowsCentral

No, it is not another name for Google’s Android. This is Microsoft’s Cellular enabled PC hardware with a new form factor.

For past few weeks, there has been talks, rumors and hints about this new form factor, called the Andromeda. Microsoft’s take on the ultra portable cellular PC device that has dual panel small form factor (small as a mobile device) that has a foldable display.

Microsoft filed a patent recently (image below). As it can be seen, the device has dual screen, which can be folded.

Andromeda Patent

Also looking at Windows 10 morphing into modular OS that is OEMs can choose which Windows 10 module to ship with depending on their device type. For example, if an OEM is shipping a regular desktop or a laptop, they choose full Windows 10 Home/Pro. If their device is more of a small form factor, they can get rid of the bulky side of Windows 10 (Win32, etc) and ship with Windows 10 ARM supporting cellular connectivity.

Microsoft for past few months have been working on Windows Core OS or the modularity I just talked about so they do not necessarily have to create or maintain different Windows 10 SKUs for different form factors.

Supporting Andromeda device, Microsoft is said (not confirmed) to be working on optimizing UWP apps to support the dual screen setup. I believe, since Microsoft recently released Windows 10 on ARM (WOA), Andromeda will also ship with WOA along with “Composable Shell” or CShell that automatically adapts to different screen sizes on different form factors.

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Lumia 950

Microsoft miserably lost against Apple and Google in mobile space, there are no two thoughts about this. Since Satya Nadella took reigns in 2014 as Microsoft’s third CEO he has slowly retreated from building any new hardware or developing Windows 10 Mobile OS.

He has got a lot of backlash for doing so from Microsoft’s diehard fans including myself, to slowly poison Windows 10 Mobile to death.

But as Satya Nadella has been giving hints that they will bounce back with a new form factor which we’re not in todays time accustomed with. He understands there is no value anymore in throwing the money in the current mobile landscape. So rather than supporting a dead platform, they rather reimagine and catch the next wave of new form factors, by creating new PC categories just as they did with Surface Pro, Surface Book and Surface Studio.

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I too agree on this with Satya Nadella or Microsoft. There is no point giving resources to a platform that has lost the battle. Instead, focus on something new, something that will truly standout. That does not necessarily competes with today’s iPhone and Android mobiles. As Microsoft created a new category with 2-in-1s with Surface devices, same it needs to do with mobile space.

Microsoft got most of the tools ready to jump ahead and get back to market with Andromeda form factor. Its got Windows Core OS, Windows 10 on ARM, UWP(Universal Windows Platform) apps for portability and running on multiple device types.

How important are these three elements to Microsoft’s success in this space:

  • Windows Core OS: As I briefly mentioned above, Windows is a 30 years or so OS with millions of lines of code, features, functions and components that may not be used today. To support billion plus users that include Enterprises and consumers it must include backward compatibility for its most important user base, the Business. But Microsoft has been working to make Windows modular, or look at it from the point of blocks, LEGO blocks. The must have blocks or the Core OS is constant. But on top of it, you can remove or add different blocks to form something new. In this case, you can add components on top of Core OS to support a desktop/laptop, Xbox console, a smaller/mobile like form factor and get rid of components that are not required for that specific form factor. This makes Windows 10 a lot lighter.
  • Windows 10 on ARM: I’ll not write on this much but rather refer you to my recent article titled, Windows 10 on ARM“. Briefly, Microsoft have been working on Windows 10 to run on ARM processors. That means, it can run on the same processor that powers most of the current mobile devices, like the iPhones and Samsung Galaxies.
  • Universal Windows Platform (UWP): Introduced with Windows 10 in 2015, is a platform to create applications that can run on various Windows 10 devices, including Windows 10 PCs, Windows 10 Mobile, Xbox One, HoloLens and Surface Hub. Like iOS applications are available through AppStore, UWP apps are also available through Microsoft Store (formerly Windows Store). Microsoft Store lacked blockbuster apps from the time it was introduced, but today things are a bit better. Some of the popular apps in the Store include, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Affinity Designer, Facebook, Pandora, Spotify, iTunes (coming soon) and Netflix. Games such as Forza Horizon, popular Minecarft, Cuphead, Halo Wars 2, Quantum Break and ReCore. Note, not all applications mentioned here can run across all devices.

All they need is a category defining hardware. If the reports are true and Andromeda or perhaps Surface Phone is eventually released towards end of 2018 then I see the light on the other side of the tunnel. I am sure Microsoft will not market this device as a phone to replace your iPhone. But a computer that can fit in your pocket running Windows 10, that can run Word, write notes and journals (OneNote) with a Pen, make calls and SMSs with a cellular/LTE connection. Maybe, connect to a dock and the little device transforms into a full blown computer running Windows 10.

2018 is a very interesting and exciting year for Microsoft. Windows 10 on ARM will get better, new form factors supporting true potential of Windows 10 on ARM will release through Microsoft OEM partners. Windows 10’s new version should be releasing Q1 of 2018, dubbed Redstone 4 (article coming soon). Finally, the year should end with Surface Phone or Andromeda device.

Let me know what do you think about the Andromeda concept by commenting in this article or:

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