Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
9/29/2011
01:10 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Microsoft Seeks Patent For Smartphone Add-Ons

Software giant proposes patent for connecting a smartphone with a keyboard, game controller, extra battery, or even a second mobile handset with another screen.

Today's smartphones generally look like a small tablet, with some having a slide-out QWERTY keyboard that can be used in landscape mode. The form factor made popular by the iPhone works, but has its limits. Playing action games, for example, is lacking when compared to mobile gaming systems. Microsoft has some ideas that will fix this and other shortcomings with current smartphones.

Microsoft has applied for a patent titled Mobile Communication Device Having Multiple, Interchangeable Second Devices. It describes a number of modules that would greatly extend the capabilities of a smartphone beyond what any single form factor could do.

The phone operates as the primary device. The second device could be a physical keyboard, game controller, extra battery, or even a second mobile handset with another screen. These modules are all wireless and can be used in groups. For example, if you want to play a game, just pick up the gaming module and set the phone down or lean it against something. Now you can use the gaming module similar to the way you would use a controller with a console games.

The idea isn't all that new, but it may be the right time for it. The tablet form factor hasn't outlived its usefulness by any means, but the limits of what it can do have been explored. Multi-touch greatly impacts how these large screens are used. Manipulating objects like pictures, Web pages, or just scrolling with your finger is much better than the old days of using a stylus, but entering data hasn't gotten any better. Software tries to aid in data entry, and while useful sometimes, it just as often creates amusing or embarrassing content. Sometimes there is no substitute for a good keyboard.

Having the keyboard as a separate module allows you to get some serious work done, but many phones can do that today. Where this gets interesting is you can have several modules working in conjunction with each other. You could use multiple modules together, say a keyboard with two displays. Or the phone would be the main module and could be used to display an article. A second module could be a screen with an email app on it, and a third module could be the keyboard you are using to type the email while referencing the article on the first screen. A fourth module could be an external battery used to keep the whole setup going for hours.

Microsoft only has one chassis spec for its Windows Phone 7 platform right now. It will be interesting to see if any of this makes it into subsequent chassis specs in the future. If anyone is capable of some cool hardware designs, it is Microsoft's key partner, Nokia. Think any of this will make it to market by 2012 or 2013?

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
UberGoober
50%
50%
UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
12/5/2011 | 8:23:56 PM
re: Microsoft Seeks Patent For Smartphone Add-Ons
Move along, folks... No prior art to see here.

Except that jammin wireless battery!
Guest
50%
50%
Guest,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/17/2011 | 5:18:36 AM
re: Microsoft Seeks Patent For Smartphone Add-Ons
Yes, I cannot believe that even Microsoft will be able to get this patent through... as it is not at all unique.
lbell284
50%
50%
lbell284,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/30/2011 | 5:01:14 AM
re: Microsoft Seeks Patent For Smartphone Add-Ons
That's a bit broad I think. They might have a bit of trouble getting that one passed since there are already bluetooth keyboards and other stuff available to many phones and tablets.
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps – and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - September 10, 2014
A high-scale relational database? NoSQL database? Hadoop? Event-processing technology? When it comes to big data, one size doesn't fit all. Here's how to decide.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.