Surface Duo firmware reveals Microsoft’s secret Windows OS origins

Andromeda concept
Image Courtesy: Harry

Microsoft’s pocketable Surface phone was initially supposed to
ship with “Andromeda OS”, a now-cancelled potential future
version of Windows 10 (mobile) which does things very

Andromeda OS was originally pitched to launch across multiple
devices, including what is now known as the Surface Duo.
Andromeda was also the codename of one of the first pocketable
Surface hardware and it was very similar to the Surface Duo,
but Andromeda was a bit bulkier and thicker.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a growing number of rumours
that suggest Microsoft was working on some kind of Windows
pocketable device internally codenamed “Andromeda.”

According to older reports, the hardware of the cancelled
Andromeda and Surface Duo is identical, and the form factor is
also similar but one key difference is the camera hardware.

Surface Duo patent
Image Courtesy: USPTO / Microsoft

In 2018, multiple new Windows APIs, telephony APIs, dual-screen
APIs, hinge APIs, and
all sorts of patents were spotted online.

In fact, a Microsoft presentation on the
subject of Azure DevOps also carried a surprising reference to
AndromedaOS. Later, more evidence emerged confirming that a
new Windows shell is being developed that would be needed to
run Windows 10 on a pocketable gadget.

Andromeda leak

A few months later, an internal memo revealed that Microsoft
abandoned the development of Andromeda software, but the
dual-screen hardware was still being worked on. In fact, it is
believed that Microsoft replaced Windows in favour of Android
on the same hardware.

Earlier this week, Microsoft published the factory image of the
Surface Duo and codebase digging has revealed Andromeda OS

A few attestation certificates refer to the device by its
original codename ‘Andromeda’ and firmware partitions are
using a certificate named ‘Andromeda’, which was issued in
2017. This suggests that the device and Andromeda OS were in
development for more than three years.

Interesting, Surface Duo firmware also includes Hypervisor
Firmware partition (HYP), which is more geared towards running
the Windows operating system.

In non-technical terms, Surface Duo’s firmware includes the
code commits that Microsoft made years ago for the Windows
Andromeda OS. This means Surface Duo used to run Windows a few
years ago with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, which was
released in 2017.

This would also seem to indicate that it’ll be possible to run
Windows 10 on Surface Duo in future if developers are willing
to port the desktop OS, although obviously, we’d be
foolish to attempt to draw any conclusions that Microsoft will
officially launch Surface Duo-like device with Windows.

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