Microsoft Surface Studio with Surface Dial

Is Microsoft getting back into the smartphone game? A report this week claims the company’s mysterious “Andromeda” device, expected to take the form of a pocketable dual-screen hybrid, will make phone calls and send text messages. However, while it sounds like a return of the Windows Phone, internal plans suggest Microsoft won’t try to market the device as an iPhone or Google Pixel competitor.

“Andromeda,” Windows Central reports, will launch later this year as the first device to use the modular base of Windows 10 combined with an “Andromeda OS” experience over the top. It’s the latest form factor in Microsoft’s Surface lineup, a range of computers aimed at showing third parties how they can use Windows in their own products to deliver interesting and premium-looking devices. The Surface Pro is the company’s tablet model, the Surface Laptop is its material-touting notebook computer, and the Surface Book is the laptop that transforms into a tablet at the press of a button. “Andromeda” is set to look like a little journal, but for a device that may launch in what’s left of this year, further details are surprisingly scarce.

Microsoft patent diagram that may demonstrate Andromeda.
Microsoft patent diagram that may demonstrate Andromeda.

Microsoft has been burned before in the phone space. The button-focused Windows Mobile platform was superseded by Windows Phone in 2010, three years after the iPhone launched and transformed the smartphone space with a focus on large touchscreens. The company aimed to unify its mobile and desktop platforms with Windows 10, encouraging developers to create universal apps that could run on big and small screens. It wasn’t enough to fend off Android and iOS, though: Windows accounted for 0.1 percent of global market share in the first quarter of 2017, and in October of that year the company ceased developing new features.

The idea of a Surface Phone, or a pocketable dual-screen device, has circled for a number of years. Gizmodo first published images of the “Courier” dual-7-inch-screened notebook back in 2009, with a fascinating interface that encouraged sharing information between apps across the two screens. The device never launched, but rumors have since suggested Microsoft would take its Surface brand and use it to produce a smartphone that breaks boundaries. In May 2017, CEO Satya Nadella told MarketPlace that “I’m sure we’ll make more phones…but they may not look like phones that are there today.”

All may be revealed very soon. An earlier report suggested “Andromeda” could launch close to a Surface Pro 6, and a low-cost Surface tablet codenamed “Libra.”

The nine-year wait for a dual-screen Microsoft tablet may soon come to an end.

Photos via USPTO, Microsoft