On July 3rd Patently Apple posted a report titled "An Internal Microsoft Leak Describes a 'New and Disruptive' foldable Smartphone is in the Works." Our cover graphic is reportedly the device that the Surface team is working on. On July 18th we did a follow-up report wherein Microsoft's SVP of Surface devices talked about a future device but continually corrected the Wired (Magazine) reporter by describing "communication" associated with the device but it wouldn't be a Surface "Phone." On Thursday, another Microsoft patent filing was published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (UPSTO) relating to this mystery device that folds like a booklet. Microsoft has been working on this concept device since 2011. This week UPSTO published Microsoft's fourth patent pending invention related to a folding mobile device.
Microsoft notes in their patent filing that their invention relates to devices, such as computing devices employing hinges that can rotationally secure first and second device portions relative to a first hinge axis that relates to the first portion and a second hinge axis that relates to the second portion.
The order of rotation and/or extent of rotation can be controlled for the two hinge axes. For instance, rotation could start around the first hinge axis, switch to the second hinge axis, and then return to the first hinge axis. The rotation can be controlled through the use of detents associated with the first and second hinge axes.
In some cases, relative sizes of individual detents can be selected to affect the relative order of rotation. Thus, from one perspective the hinges can be viewed as detent-priority determinant hinges. The detents can control the order of rotation relative to the two hinge axes, extent of rotation relative to the hinge axes, and/or provide resistance to maintain particular orientations of the first and second portions.
Introductory patent FIG. 1 below shows an example device #100 that has first and second portions #102 and #104 that are rotatably secured together by a hinge #105, which in this case is manifest as a pair of a determinative hinge assemblies #106."
Microsoft's patent FIGS. 2A and 2D illustrate a use case scenario of the device. The closed orientation can be very compact and easy for the user to transport. For instance, the device may fit in the user's pocket. Further, the first surfaces can be protected in this closed orientation by the second surfaces
In Patent FIG. 2B, the orientation can be thought of as a 'notebook' or 'laptop' orientation. The notebook orientation can be manifest as an angle in a range from about 90 degrees to about 150 degrees. In this case, the device portions #102 and #104 are configured to maintain this relative orientation while the user uses the device.
In this example, video content is presented on a GUI #204(1) on display #126(1) of the first portion and a virtual keyboard is presented on the display on second portion. The user can control the GUI via the virtual keyboard. In FIG. 2C we see the user has decided to lay the device flat and not use a virtual keyboard so as to see the video in full mode.
Like Microsoft's Surface Book, the hinge plays a vital role to ensure the device could be used in various angles and hold correctly. The patent covers this hinge in a dozen scenarios illustrating its flexibility. FIG. 4A is just of the hinge positions showing a closed position.
Microsoft notes that the hinge assembly could be formed from sheet metals, die cast metals, machined metals, 3D printed materials, molded or 3D printed plastics, and/or molded or 3D printed composites, among others, or any combination of these materials and/or preparations can be employed.
The present determinative hinge assembly concepts can be utilized with any type of device, such as but not limited to notebook computers, smart phones, wearable smart devices, tablets, and/or other types of existing, developing, and/or yet to be developed devices.
Beyond Microsoft's patent figures noted above illustrating a video app playing, the patent doesn't delve into any marketing concepts or describe any specialized features such as cameras. This particular report is deadly focused on describing the hinge assembly.
Though in the big picture, the design / form factor continues to support the rumored design as noted in our cover graphic.
In our July 3rd report, the source noted that "Microsoft describes its Andromeda project as something the company has quietly incubated internally, and that will create a 'new and disruptive' device category to influence the overall Surface roadmap and blur the lines between what's considered PC and mobile.
Microsoft filed their patent application on January 24, 2017 which was published by USPTO on July 26, 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Microsoft began working on this idea back in 2011. Their first patent application on this surfaced in 2014 and you could review it here. In January 2017 another invention in the same vein was published with one set of patent figures presented below showing that they were also thinking of a larger foldable tablet form factor as well as a smartphone device.
And lastly, a second 2017 patent application from Microsoft surfaced in April focused on a dual display device that you could review here.
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