Back in October 6, 2015 Patently Apple posted a report titled "With Microsoft launching their First Notebook Today could a Desktop be next?" Weeks later Microsoft's former CEO strongly stated that "only Microsoft could challenge Apple in software and hardware." More specifically Ballmer stated that "I mean who's really going after the Mac?" Considering the interview was after the release of their first notebook called the Surface Book, it was pretty clear that he was hinting at a desktop too. That hint is now supported by a new patent application that was made public for the first time last week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office titled "Modular Computing Device." The design begins with a slick all-in-one design base that allows a user to add layers to the desktop so that a user can begin with a starter design and then add more power, memory, graphics cards and more over time in a stackable design.
Is Microsoft out to challenge Apple's iMac? Yes, most certainly and Ballmer is cheering it on – loudly as one would expect. In fact he's hoping for a little revenge for Apple out-thinking and killing Microsoft with the iPhone in 2007 where Ballmer made the mistake of laughing at Apple for attempting to take on the established mobile phone leaders of the day. Yes, Apple silenced Ballmer and eventually killed his leadership at Microsoft. Could this modular centric Desktop be a real iMac Killer? Unlikely, but only time will tell.
Microsoft's Invents a Modular Desktop Computer
The range and functionality of hardware resources that are made available for use with a computing device is ever increasing. For example, faster processors, memories that support larger storage amounts, wireless communication devices that support increased bandwidth, and so on are being continually developed.
However, conventional techniques that made this increased functionality available to a user generally involved the replacement of a user's current device with a new device having this functionality. Thus, these conventional techniques can be expensive and thus avoided by a user, thereby limiting a device maker's opportunity to provide this increased functionality to users.
And with this in mind, Microsoft has set out to design an all-in-one desktop that is focused on a modular model.
Microsoft's patent FIGS. 8, 10 and 13 illustrated below show one vision of a future desktop. Here, the figures represent the overall look of the 'base' of this fully modular design.
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 2 noted below we're able to see another example implementation showing different configurations of a modular based Microsoft desktop computer.
In the first example #202, the display modular component #108 is illustrated as being used alone without additional modular components. As illustrated, the display modular component include a power supply and may include one or more inputs that may be utilized with another device, such a HDMI, display ports, USB ports, and so on. The display modular component may also include a sufficient amount of ballast to counteract a weight of the display.
In one or more implementations, the display modular component also includes functionality to execute an operating system, such as to be configured as a "thin" computing device to support a lightweight operating system, processor, and memory for mobile configurations. Addition of the computing modular component #118 may therefore be utilized to supplement this functionality in this example, such as to add processing, memory, and/or network resource functionality to support a "thick" or "rich" computing device configuration.
In the second example #204, the computing modular component is added to the display modular component through stacking to form a physical and communicative coupling between the components. In the third example #206, the accessory modular component #126 is added to the computing modular component through stacking to form a physical and communicative coupling between the display, computing, and accessory components.
A variety of different functionality may be added, such as battery power, input devices, and/or output devices, a natural user interface input device, and so on as previously described. Other accessory configurations are also contemplated, an example of which is described in the following and shown in a corresponding figure.
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 3 we're able to see an example implementation #300 in which the Microsoft desktop computer also includes another accessory modular component #302. In this example, a housing #304 of an accessory modular component is physically and communicatively coupled to the display device #114 of the display modular component through use of protrusions, magnetisms, mechanical latches, and so forth. Placement of the accessory modular component at this location may be utilized to support a variety of different functionality, such as any one of the accessory functionality previously described.
Natural User Interface
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 3, the accessory is configured to support a natural user interface (NUI) input device #306 that may recognize interactions that may not involve touch. For example, the NUI input device may be configured in a variety of ways to detect inputs without having a user touch a particular device, such as to recognize audio inputs through use of a microphone. For instance, "the NUI input device may be configured to support voice recognition to recognize particular utterances (e.g., a spoken command) as well as to recognize a particular user that provided the utterances." Microsoft already implements voice recognition via Cortana in Windows 10.
In another example, the NUI input device that may be configured to support recognition of gestures, presented objects, images, and so on through use of a camera. The camera, for instance, may be configured to include multiple lenses so that different perspectives may be captured and thus determine depth. The different perspectives, for instance, may be used to determine a relative distance from the NUI input device 306 and thus a change in the relative distance.
In another example, a time-of-flight camera may be utilized to determine relative distances of objects, e.g., arms, hands, fingers, legs, torso, and head of a user. For instance, the NUI input device #306 may capture images that are analyzed to recognize one or more motions made by a user, including what body part is used to make the motion as well as which user made the motion. Motions may be identified as gestures by the NUI input device to initiate a corresponding functions. This would reflect the use of Kinect technology in Microsoft's future desktop computer.
In this way, the NUI input device may be leveraged to support depth perception in a variety of different ways. The images captured by the NUI input device may be leveraged to provide a variety of other functionality, such as techniques to identify particular users (e.g., through facial recognition), objects, and so on. This too is now available in Windows 10 via its "Windows Hello" feature.
A variety of different types of gestures may be recognized, such a gestures that are recognized from a single type of input (e.g., a motion gesture) as well as gestures involving multiple types of inputs, e.g., a motion gesture and an object gesture made using an object such as a stylus. This way the NUI input device may support a variety of different gesture techniques by recognizing and leveraging a division between inputs. It should be noted that by differentiating between inputs in the natural user interface (NUI), the number of gestures that are made possible by each of these inputs alone is also increased.
Microsoft filed their patent application back July 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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