Microsoft Returning to Dual-Screen Ambitions With 2-in-1 Surface - Report

Microsoft is reportedly working on a dual-screen smartphone called Andromeda that could debut sometime in 2019, and according to a Windows Central report this week, that device could also be accompanied by a Surface Centaurus 2-in-1. (Apparently the company doesn't think naming its new devices after galaxies when Samsung already has the Galaxy line is too on-the-nose). 

This isn't the first time Microsoft has chased this dream. An internal project dedicated to a similar device, Courier, was discovered in 2009 and then scrapped in 2010. But a lot has changed since then. Displays are sharper, touchscreens are more accurate, and components are better at balancing their performance with their power requirements. Concepts that couldn't be delivered in 2010 are far easier to make a reality nearly a decade later.

Windows Courier leaked photo (Image credit: Gizmodo)

Windows Central reported that Microsoft has shifted its efforts away from Andromeda to work on Centaurus instead. The device is said to feature two displays connected by a notebook-like hinge along their longest sides. This would allow Centaurus to be used as a tablet with a single display, a laptop with a touchscreen keyboard, or a notebook meant to be used with a stylus for maximum touch-based productivity. According to the site, it's two-screen form factor will be compatible with E Ink. All this would make it quite similar to the Lenovo Yoga Book C930.

You don't need a telescope to see why it would make sense for Microsoft to prioritize a dual-screen 2-in-1 over a foldable smartphone. People are familiar with the former. Microsoft simply has to convince people that being restricted to touchscreen input--or an external keyboard--won't hurt their productivity too much.

A foldable smartphone is a harder sell, especially since Microsoft's last attempt to compete in the smartphone market didn't go particularly well. Working on Centaurus first would allow Microsoft to popularize the idea while getting consumers accustomed to the new Windows Core OS to aid the Andromeda's introduction. 

Windows Central said that Windows Core OS is a "new modern version of Windows 10" designed specifically for dual-screen devices. The operating system would make it easier for app developers to support the variety of form factors Microsoft's galaxy-named devices can take, provided they're willing to bring their legacy Win32 apps into the Microsoft Store, which the company has been trying to convince more developers to do lately.

Windows Central said the company's eyeing a fall 2019 release date for the Surface Centaurus, but this has not been confirmed by Microsoft. Until these devices reach consumers, this one small step for Microsoft and one bold leap for computing is just a rumor.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.