Leak offers a glimpse at Microsoft's canceled Andromeda OS for dual-screen devices

Many of the features eventually made their way to Surface Duo and other Microsoft products.

David Imel for Engadget

Before Microsoft announced the Surface Duo in 2019, the company spent several years working on an operating system codenamed Andromeda. It was envisioned as a reboot of Windows Phone with an emphasis on inking. The company worked on the software until it eventually decided to instead include Android on the Surface Duo. Until now, we’ve only seen glimpses of Andromeda in things like patent filing. But Windows Central recently obtained an internal build of the operating system and installed it on a Lumia 950.

Outside of a rare look at an unfinished project, what’s interesting about seeing Andromeda after all these years is how many of the ideas Microsoft was working on then either made their way to the Surface Duo or apps the company has released since. On the lock screen, for instance, you can see an early version of the Surface Duo’s peek functionality. Meanwhile, a lot of the features you see on the “Journal” home screen eventually made their way to the company’s Whiteboard app, and that’s something you can download from the Microsoft Store.

At the same time, it’s an interesting look at what could have been. Even in the software’s unfinished state, there’s a lot we see in the video that’s genuinely different from anything Android and iOS offer, even to this day. The fact Andromeda allowed you to jot down notes directly on the lock screen, and that they would still be there the next time you unlocked the phone, is something that looks genuinely useful.

Of course, there are probably many good reasons Microsoft ultimately decided not to pursue Andromeda. Launching a device that does something different, let alone a completely new operating system, is no easy task in a mature marketplace. Unless a device does nearly everything right, it’s difficult to overcome the fact most people tend to stick with products they know and are comfortable with.