Microsoft started internal demos of its dual-screen Surface hardware, codenamed Centaurus, including an “all-hands” event for its device team, said sources. The company allowed employees to get up close to the prototype hardware, and also showed a sizzle reel. Centaurus, in development for about two years, is intended to be the showpiece of the company’s upcoming assortment of dual-screen tablet/laptop hybrids. Sources also said that Centaurus is more similar to the Courier tablet than the prior Andromeda project.
The Verge reports that Andromeda was intended to be a smaller Surface device that could be stored in a user’s pocket, but Microsoft stopped development to pursue a larger form-factor device, the Centaurus. The company has “been building various dual-screen prototypes for Surface hardware, but the fact it has started showing the Centaurus device more broadly to employees indicates that the company is getting closer to launching a final product,” with the possibility of a launch in the next six months.
If Centaurus launches, it will be one of Microsoft’s first devices with Windows Lite, an internal codename for “a more stripped-down version of Windows.” According to The Verge, Windows Lite is “initially being prioritized for dual-screen devices like Centaurus.”
To develop Surface Centaurus, Microsoft is reportedly working closely with Intel, which “has been pushing OEMs to create this new hardware category.” Although Microsoft has never officially acknowledged the existence of Andromeda or Centaurus, last year, Microsoft Devices chief product officer Panos Panay said that Andromeda was “absolutely my baby.”
“We will invent and we will create when products are right,” Panay said. “We can’t bring new categories into the world and not be a place where customers need it.” Panay has been an advocate of “a smaller notepad-like Surface for years.”
At the employee event to demonstrate Centaurus, Microsoft also showed off “a working version of xCloud,” which is intended to be a way to resume games on the go “and keep playing across iOS and Android devices rather than a direct replacement to Xbox consoles for now.” More xCloud details are likely to be revealed at E3 this month in Los Angeles. Microsoft also demonstrated a prototype version of Microsoft Teams “for life,” which is “designed as an extension of Microsoft’s chat app for friends and family … in an attempt to compete more with services like WhatsApp.”