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This article was published on July 2, 2018

Dear Microsoft, don’t kill the Surface Phone

Dear Microsoft, don’t kill the Surface Phone Image by: David Breyer
Napier Lopez
Story by

Napier Lopez


Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in his free time. Follow him on Twitter.

Just a few days after The Verge seemed to all but confirm Microsoft’s folding phone-sized PC was a real, imminent product, another report suggests the project has been delayed – perhaps indefinitely.

The party-pooping news comes via ZDNet‘s Mary Jo Foley, one of the most reliable writers on Microsoft. According to Foley, Microsoft execs recently decided that the software bits of Andromeda simply weren’t up to snuff. They were due to be included with the Redstone 5 release of Windows in October, but now it appears Andromeda’s future is uncertain.

That said, this doesn’t mean Microsoft has scrapped the project entirely; it simply might not live on in the form factor we expected. According to the article’s sources, Andromeda might end up being more of a small foldable PC than a phone-sized device. That would allow it to allow it to run traditional Win32 apps rather than just Universal Windows Platform apps from the Windows Store.

If you’re wondering how a project could be shut down so soon after the recent leaks, Foley makes the important point that one of the reasons people leak projects in the first place is to prevent them from being cancelled. Build up hype, and maybe the execs will reconsider. Remember, the Surface Mini was killed just a couple of weeks before it was due to be announced.

But Foley thinks Microsoft is making the right choice here. Few people would need an additional device beyond their phone and PC or tablet. The device would likely be expensive, and Andromeda would face an uphill battle if it tried to go up against Android and iOS.

Credit: David Breyer

I can’t help but be disappointed though. After innovations with Surface and HoloLens the past few years, Microsoft began to steal some of Apple’s reputation as the “cool” tech company. It was pushing PC hardware in ways we’ve never seen. It was more than just the company that made Xbox and the software you were forced to use at work.

After the failure of Windows Phone, the Surface Phone – or at least a phone-like device – seemed inevitable. Mobile is just too central to our everyday lives for Microsoft to give up on, and we know it’s been dreaming of a pocketable Surface forever.

But more recently, we’ve seen Microsoft majorly restructure its teams and increase focus on the cloud and AI. In doing so, it seems to have lost some of that steam. It keeps on pumping out Surface products, but they seem to be a smaller focus than they were just a few years ago.

Don’t get me wrong. The cloud and AI are both important and lucrative, but they’re not what build loyalty and hype among consumers. They’re just not tangible enough for the average person, the way awesome hardware and software are.

Case in point: Microsoft’s big Build conference this year, with its near-exclusive focus on Office, the cloud, and AI, was the most boring one I’ve seen so far. And while that’s just one year, it seems to be following a trend.

It’s no wonder, then, that people are starting worry whether Microsoft will become the next IBM: a company that’s still doing stuff, but nobody outside the industry actually cares about. Ask a stranger what IBM is up to nowadays and I doubt you’ll get a good answer.

For now, all the back-and-forth reports mean I’m not sure what to believe about Andromeda. If Foley’s report is right, maybe Microsoft needs to reassess its strategy. Maybe the technology just isn’t there yet. Maybe a phone-sized Surface was never really viable.

Whatever the case, I just hope Microsoft doesn’t give up on shaking things up.

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