Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a granted design patent for Microsoft that covers a possible future Surface accessory beyond their soft keyboard.
Unlike "patent applications," design patents published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office don't reveal pertinent information about a particular design. We can look at the design and appreciate it for what it projects, but we'll never discover which materials may be used to construct the design. We'll never know what unique internal components may be hidden within the device or learn about any unique features that we could look forward to. All we get is the simple visual of what could be coming down the pipeline.
So why does this soft Surface keyboard not have keys? Simply put, because it's not a keyboard. Microsoft filed another related patent back in August 2014 and showed us that the removable keyboard could be replaced with a similar structured cover but for another purpose. Last year's patent shows us that Microsoft envisioned and Xbox accessory could be created to play games on the Surface – especially with Windows 10 that supports Xbox gaming.
Last year's patent also showed us how the soft cover could be an interface for presentations as well.
Apple also has a similar patent on record. In one scenario, Apple envisioned having a soft cover that allowed for drawing and writing with a smart pen so that the display wouldn't have to be designed and reinvented for a stylus.
Microsoft's granted design patent is interesting because of the fact that they've decided to keep the surface of the accessory design blank. This allows them to conceal what they have up their sleeve for their next Surface accessory. Will it be for games as we've pointed out? Yes it could be – but committing to that one option wouldn't be wise for the time being because it's very likely that Microsoft could introduce a "virtual" interface that would allow the surface interface to morph into various configurations.
Microsoft also recently introduced us to a "hologram" feature for a future iteration of the Surface Keyboard. So only time will tell what Microsoft intends to bring to market over time - but in the meantime they sure have me guessing.