Microsoft has been showing off a new prototype privately to its employees, an innovative dual-screen device that currently goes by the codename “Surface Centaurus.” It’s a project that’s been in the works for years, having taken a few different forms as it’s evolved. As of yet, it’s never been officially spoken of by Microsoft, only hinted at in rumors and reports.
What we do know is that Centaurus is an ambitious dual-screen “2-in-1” device that could be released sooner than you would think. Here’s everything we know about the revolutionary new Surface device and what it might be like.
Price and release date
It’s still too far out to make accurate claims about the Surface Centaurus price. However, Microsoft’s current Surface laptops start around $ 900 or $ 1,000. Add in new dual-screen technology, and it’s easy to guess that $ 1,000 or higher is a good starting place for the device. Then again, it is supposed to be a smaller device, so Microsoft may try to bridge the gap between the affordable Surface Go and the premium Surface Pro.
As for a release date, Microsoft has made no official announcement or teaser for when to expect it. However, rumors say that it may well be slated for a release in Fall 2019, well in time for the holiday season, so there’s a good chance that you could see it this year.
Born from Andromeda and Courier
If you’ve been paying attention to Microsoft rumors for a while, this two-screen idea will seem very familiar. There was a “Courier” project several years ago that was supposed to be some kind of dual-screen, lightweight computer that was ultimately canceled. Microsoft also spent some time on Andromeda, a project to create a phone-sized dual-screen or foldable device. Microsoft has reportedly stopped work on Andromeda to focus on Centaurus, reasoning that software would be easier to develop for a larger screen, and worrying that there wasn’t enough demand to justify its production.
When Windows Central first broke the story on Centaurus in December 2018 and revealed that Microsoft has been working on it for a couple of years, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. It was just a matter of Microsoft finding out just what it wanted. And it seems the company wanted a larger dual-screen device in the Surface family, designed for more innovative business work and potentially launching a whole new form factor for the company.
There’s also a chance Microsoft could be interested in the foldable screen trends. Samsung is determined to release its Galaxy Fold despite major setbacks, and Lenovo has even shown off its own version of a laptop-like device with a foldable screen. This might be the closest thing we’ve seen to a preview of the Surface Centaurus as we’re going to get.
Size is probably laptop-like
While we aren’t sure exactly what Surface Centaurus will look like, but it does appear to be larger than both Courier and Andromeda were expected to be, so look for something near the size of a laptop or professional tablet.
That’s not to say that smaller dual-screen Surfaces are out of the question or won’t ever happen: The Surface division head Panos Panay really, really likes the idea of a pocket-sized Surface product. Microsoft appears to have chosen a larger device as its flagship model, to make the benefits of using a dual screen obvious and more accessible to a broad audience.
No doubt the Centaurus device will make use of the Surface Pen for functions and drawing. It could also have some kind of touchscreen-based keyboard for operation, although we’ll have to wait on Microsoft for further details. Interestingly, Microsoft has also been working to advance hinge construction on its Surface computers, which could be a sign that Centaurus will use a similar hinge design.
Made for Windows Lite
Reports also suggest that Centaurus will run Windows Lite, which is also known as Windows Core OS. This is a streamlined version of Windows 10, one that could better fit a variety of screen sizes and form factors. Windows Core OS is said to be a bit more controlled in terms of what apps you can use and has a lower footprint for speed and simple tasks. As you might expect, Microsoft wants this version of Windows to compete more directly with things like Chromebooks and iPad Pros. The Centaurus device looks like a good opportunity to advance that goal.
Though Microsoft hasn’t talked much about the software, we’ve actually already seen a version of this new operating system in action on the Surface Hub 2. We’d expected to hear more about the new operating system at Build this year, but it looks like we’ll have to wait until next year to hear more.
Intel is along for the ride
Intel, for one, is very interested in dual-screen devices — so much so that the company has shown off its own concepts for dual screens in the past, and is working on various components to help companies reach that end. The closest might be the Tiger Rapids prototype, first shown off at Computex of 2018. The device featured two screens, which could be folded up like a notebook.
It’s no surprise, then that reports also say Microsoft and Intel have been working together on Centaurus, and that the double-screened computer is very likely to depend on Intel tech for its operation. Intel has good reason to support this, too: The manufacturer is seeing powerful competition from ARM in certain areas, like professional mobile devices, and wants to be a potent alternative. This new device could easily fall into the realm of Project Athena, Intel’s attempt to work directly with manufacturers to push for better battery life and more inventive form factors.