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Microsoft’s two-screen Andromeda may arrive in 2019 with Productivity Mode

Andromeda Mockup 3
Ryna Smalley | Behance

A clue regarding Microsoft’s Andromeda device was recently discovered inside a Windows 10 driver, indicating that the device will have a productivity mode. This mode is used in a class — a set of attributes that Windows 10 uses to make a window — called MultiTaskMode. The driver in question handles the display settings (SettingsHandlers_Display.dll).

Given this driver provides no other clues, we can only guess what this productivity mode will provide. It likely defines a laptop-style mode that shoves a virtual keyboard onto one screen and the desktop environment onto the second screen. Other modes will be provided as well, but this is the first time we’ve seen a mode actually labeled.

Recent reports regarding the state of Andromeda indicated that Microsoft put the project on hold indefinitely. The components in Windows 10 needed to run the device were reportedly removed from the upcoming “Redstone 5” feature update slated to arrive later this year. The device supposedly didn’t have a target audience or an ecosystem to support its unique form factor, so executives halted the project.

But sources close to the project indicate that it isn’t dead in the water, but merely pulled back to the drawing board for a significant overhaul. In its current state, there was nothing compelling about Andromeda that would push the device off store shelves, it wouldn’t transform the mobile market or push the Surface brand into new, innovative, compelling territory.

That said, sources indicate Microsoft may release Andromeda toward the end of 2019. That is an interesting release window, as products based on Intel’s 10nm processors are expected to arrive during the 2019 holiday season as well. That may be part of the equation; Microsoft wants to use Intel’s 10nm chips, but mass production won’t happen until then.

Then again, Microsoft could go with an ARM-based Qualcomm Snapdragon chip as seen in always-connected PCs. But the company’s latest Surface-branded products solely rely on Intel-based processors, such as the new $400 Surface Go with the Pentium 4415Y. Keeping the Surface brand on Intel-based processors across the board just makes sense.

Andromeda will supposedly be a two-screen device you can cram into your pocket. It will provide five distinct modes: Laptop, tent, tablet, full, and closed, the latter of which closes the screen together to put Andromeda in sleep mode. Full mode would see the screens touching back-to-back in a smartphone-like form factor. Laptop mode will likely be renamed with the Productivity Mode label as discovered in the Windows 10 driver.

A recently uncovered patent possibly points to three-way calling on the Andromeda device. Illustrations show an individual holding a pocket-sized two-screen device, with each screen featuring an embedded camera. While the standing individual holds the device with the backs of the two screens touching (full mode), he’s chatting in a video call on one screen while a second, sitting individual chats via the second screen.

Given Microsoft has not officially acknowledged Andromeda, everything here is speculation and rumor. But signs indicate there is still life in Andromeda after all, but will it disrupt the mobile market?

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