The Surface Centaurus might run Android apps, but is that a good idea?

Surface Pro 6 Review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

A leaked report from Forbes has dropped specs for Microsoft’s next Surface 2-in-1, code-named Centaurus In addition to dual, 9-inch screens and an Intel 10nm Lakefield processor, one other important detail was leaked. Android apps. That’s right. A Microsoft Surface device in the future could launch with Android apps and the Google Play Store built-in.

These types of leaks should always be taken with a grain of salt, but let’s imagine for a moment the report is true. Are Android apps a good idea?

Android apps could be exactly what the Surface needs

In an interview just last week, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was asked his biggest regret from his time with Microsoft. His answer? Android apps. Owning the second-largest mobile app ecosystem was something Microsoft might have been able to do if mobile had been a serious part of the roadmap early on. Instead, the Windows Phone platform played third fiddle to iOS and Android. Apps never made their way to the platform in large numbers, even major ones like Instagram and YouTube.

That problem lingers on Windows 10 tablets. Despite the success of Microsoft’s 2-in-1s like the Surface Pro or Surface Go, tablet mode has always been a weakness. They work great as ultra-portable laptops, but once you disconnect the keyboard and try to use them as a tablet, the experience leaves a lot to be desired. The Microsoft Store is barren, lacking much of what you use daily on your phone, even containing cloned lookalikes that you should stay away from. It’s not a good situation.

Surface Pro 6 Review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Android apps sound like a smart solution for Microsoft. If this new device has only a 9-inch screen, mobile apps will feel more comfortable to use than native desktop options. They’re more touch-friendly, that’s for sure. According to Windows Central, Android app implementation was also rumored to be in the works for the delayed Project Andromeda, so why not on an iPad-sized device?

Project Centaurus is rumored to use something called Windows Lite, a more efficient version of Windows meant for smaller devices. It’s based on Windows Core OS, a modular platform of shared core elements that can be used across a wide range of devices, from the VR headsets to large-screen formats like the Surface Hub 2.

So, Android apps on the Centaurus is a no-brainer, right? Well…maybe not.

Didn’t Google already fail at this?

Google ported the entire Google Play Store over to Chrome OS for reasons that mirror Microsoft’s. Though most applications are available on the web, they aren’t made with smaller touchscreens in mind. That was a problem once Chrome OS added touchscreen support. Android apps, optimized for touch by default, seemed like the solution.

It wasn’t.

Google Pixel Slate Hands-on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The push for ChromeOS tablets to challenge the iPad culminated in the launch of the Pixel Slate in late 2018. Unlike the Pixelbook, which was meant to be used primarily as a clamshell, the Pixel Slate lived and died on Google’s tablet mode. Despite the promise of that device, the software never quite knew what to do with Android apps. They were buggy, poorly optimized, and difficult to navigate. Compared to the software experience of an iPad, it was a mess.

In true Google fashion, the device has been canned, along with work on any future internal tablet projects. Google owns the Play Store and has more influence on Android apps that any other company in the world, but it couldn’t make Android apps work well on its own Chrome OS tablet.

Why does Microsoft think it can succeed where Google failed?

That’s not clear. Microsoft does have a few reasons to hope, however. With Surface, Microsoft owns a brand of hardware that people know. It’s a brand associated with 2-in-1 devices that bridge the gap between different form factors. With the right device, it just might be able to ship enough units to actually convince app developers to return to its Android apps.

Microsoft also has a tight relationship with the companies that create the majority of Windows PCs like Dell, Lenovo, and HP. Under Microsoft’s lead, these companies might have the confidence to enter the market with competitive machines and push the number of Android tablets in use even higher. That’s an option Google doesn’t have.

Let’s hope that this time Microsoft, has the guts to stick with it — and make Bill Gates proud.

Computing

Will the Surface Pro 7 ditch Intel chips for Qualcomm’s 5G support?

Microsoft might announce a new Surface Pro 7 towards the end of this year and according to new rumors, it might do with a new chip under the hood. Not an Intel chip though, but one from AMD, or even Qualcomm.
Computing

Linux is now beating Windows on Microsoft’s own turf, and Azure is better for it

According to remarks by a developer at Microsoft, there are now more instances of Linux-based operating systems running on the company's Azure cloud platform than Windows-based ones.
News

Microsoft’s controller prototype presents Switch-inspired mobile gaming input

Microsoft seems to be taking a page out of Nintendo’s book with Switch-inspired prototype gamepads. They seem like a perfect way to playXbox games through Project Xcloud on smartphones and tablets.
Deals

Microsoft Surface Pro 6 gets $174 discount in advance of Amazon Prime Day

Now, ahead of Amazon Prime Day, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 tablet can be yours for just $725. Your Prime Day wish list is long enough already, so secure these savings, and leave yourself one less thing to shop for come July 15.
Computing

Upgrade your gaming rig with our favorite graphics cards for every budget

If you're serious about games, a good graphics card is essential. There’s no one-size-fits-all option for graphics cards, but our recommendations can help you pick from the best graphics cards for your needs.
Computing

AMD or Intel? We take a look at the pros and cons of both processors

When it comes to selecting a CPU for your PC, there's no shortage of chips for you to choose from. With Ryzen, Threadripper, and Core i9 CPUs though, the AMD vs. Intel argument is muddier than ever.
Computing

Amazon Prime Day discounts makes upgrading to RTX graphics even more affordable

Looking to upgrade your graphics card? Today may be the day to do it, thanks to Amazon's Prime Day shopping event. Amazon is offering Prime members steep discounts off of GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080, or RTX 2070 graphics.
Deals

The best mouse deals for Prime Day 2019: Razer, Logitech, and more

This year's big shopping event, Amazon Prime Day, offers some fantastic discounts on mice. We've scoured this year's sales and made picks for what we think are the best mice you can buy on Prime Day.
Computing

Keep your portable computer safe and shiny with the best laptop bags for 2019

Choosing the right laptop bag is no easy feat -- after all, no one likes to second-guess themselves. Here are some of the best laptop bags on the market, from backpacks to sleeves, so you can get it right the first time around.
Computing

Amazon Prime Day deal slashes $200 off of this MacBook Pro

Amazon’s Prime Day deals have extended to Apple’s MacBook Pro, with deep discounts galore. You can save $200 on a 2018 MacBook Pro, making it a superb bargain if you’re in the market for a MacBook.
Deals

Walmart Prime Day sale: 4K TV, Apple Watch, and Nintendo Switch Deals

The Walmart Prime Day sale continues to go strong as the first day of Amazon's 48-hour deals event comes to a close. There are loads of great Apple Watch, Nintendo Switch, and 4K TV deals going on right now.
Computing

Don't pay for that app! These top-notch screen recorders are absolutely free

Our list of the best free screen recorders showcases some of the top apps for capturing video on your computer - without paying for the feature. Whether you're in a business or on your own, take a look at the these options.
Computing

The best Prime Day laptop deals: MacBook, Razer, HP, and Dell XPS discounts

Amazon Prime Day is now in its second and last day. Time is ticking to sort through some amazing laptop deals. We're seeing huge discounts on gaming laptops, MacBooks, Chromebooks, and more. If you're on the hunt for a solid laptop deal…
Computing

This iPad Pro is at its lowest price ever thanks to Amazon Prime Day

On the lookout for a new iPad Pro on Prime Day? Look no further, because we’ve found the mother of all deals. You can save $430 on an iPad Pro, bringing its price down to a super-low $699.