Microsoft has started to demonstrate new dual-screen Surface hardware inside the company. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the company recently held an all hands event for its devices team, where it showed a sizzle video for new Surface devices and dual-screen prototype hardware. Employees even formed long lines to get a closer glimpse at this new Surface device.
Microsoft has been building a new dual-screen device, codenamed Centaurus, for around two years, and it’s designed to be the hero device for a wave of new dual-screen tablet / laptop hybrids. Windows Central first reported on the Centaurus codename back in December, and we understand it’s more similar to Microsoft’s Courier tablet concept than the company’s previous Andromeda effort. Microsoft was working on a smaller “pocketable” Surface device codenamed Andromeda, but the company has halted its work in favor of pushing for something larger (Centaurus).
It’s highly unusual for the Surface team to demonstrate hardware more broadly inside of Microsoft before it’s been officially announced, but we understand there are fresh efforts to move away from the traditional secrecy. Microsoft 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. Microsoft may launch this device within the next six months.
Centaurus will also be one of the first Windows Lite devices if Microsoft proceeds to launch the device. Microsoft is preparing a new lightweight version of Windows for dual-screen devices and Chromebook competitors. “Windows Lite,” as it’s codenamed internally, is a more stripped-down version of Windows that is initially being prioritized for dual-screen devices like Centaurus.
Intel has been pushing OEMs to create this new hardware category, and machines could appear much like Microsoft’s Courier concept, dual-screen laptops, or even foldable displays in the future. Intel showed off a number of concepts last year, but we understand Microsoft has been working closely with Intel on its Surface Centaurus device.
Microsoft has never officially confirmed the existence of Andromeda or Centaurus. “It’s absolutely my baby,” explained Microsoft’s Panos Panay in an interview with The Verge last year, referring to rumors of a pocketable Surface. “We will invent and we will create when products are right. We can’t bring new categories into the world and not be a place where customers need it.”
Panay has been dreaming of a smaller notepad-like Surface for years, previously describing an unreleased 7-inch Surface Mini as “like a Moleskine” and “awesome.” Microsoft decided to cancel the product as it wasn’t really that differentiated compared to other smaller tablets five years ago.
Alongside Centaurus, Microsoft officials also demonstrated a working version of xCloud at this all hands. Microsoft will unveil more details about xCloud and public trials at the company’s E3 event on Sunday, but the cloud gaming service is being pitched as a way to resume your games on the go and keep playing across iOS and Android devices rather than a direct replacement to Xbox consoles for now.
Microsoft also demonstrated a new prototype version of Microsoft Teams. Dubbed Microsoft Teams “for life,” it’s designed as an extension of Microsoft’s chat app for friends and family. Microsoft is experimenting with features like sending location, shared family calendars, and document sharing. Microsoft appears to be attempting to recreate the family features previously available on Windows Phone, in an attempt to compete more with services like WhatsApp.