The dream of the mythical Microsoft Courier may not be dead after all. Microsoft is reportedly working on a dual-screen tablet device that could debut as soon as next year. The device will allegedly have dual 9-inch displays with a 4:3 aspect ratio and support for running Android apps.
According to IHS Markit, Microsoft calls the device “Centaurus” internally, but it will be part of the Surface brand when it launches. In addition to the dual screens, Centaurus will have Intel’s latest 10nm Lakefield system-on-a-chip and could support either LTE or 5G connectivity.
Centaurus won’t run the same Windows you’ve known and tolerated on touchscreen devices in the past. Centaurus will allegedly run Microsoft’s new Windows Core OS (WCOS), a slimmer version of Windows for Chromebook-like laptops and tablets. WCOS will serve as the base for Windows across various devices, but it will lack aging technology like Win32 apps and legacy shell interfaces. One thing Centaurus will apparently offer is Android app support.
Microsoft has struggled to get developers to use its Universal Windows Platform, in large part because these apps only run on Windows 10. A developer who wants to support the greatest number of users would just write a traditional Win32 app instead. Centaurus could potentially sidestep that problem by adopting Android app support.
There are two issues with supporting Android apps, though. For one, Microsoft would basically have to admit that Universal Windows Platform apps are dead. Developers simply won’t have any reason to work with UWP anymore. The other issue is that Microsoft would have to convince Android developers to port content to Centaurus. It wouldn’t be nearly as much work as building an app from scratch, but it would still take some effort. The apps would need to be freed of Google dependencies and probably uploaded to a new store for easy access on the Centaurus.
It’s hard not to compare this upcoming device with the long lost Microsoft Courier, a dual-screen tablet that only existed in a riveting concept video from 2009. It had a “journal-like” interface with unique multitasking features that made use of the “spine” in the middle of the two screens. Microsoft eventually confirmed the Courier existed in an early phase of development, but it ended the project before it could get very far. Now, Centaurus could fulfill the promise of that leaked video from a decade ago.
IHS Markit cites supply chain data suggesting Centaurus could launch in the first half of 2020, possibly even the first quarter.