Microsoft files for swappable smartphone accessories patent

As smartphones get more and more popular, they also add more functions and features. Smartphones can now serve as a camera, a PC, a media player, a game console and more. But designs for smartphones sometimes don't allow for the full use of those features, especially when it comes to games. Now a newly revealed patent by Microsoft shows that the company is exploring the idea of having swappable hardware accessories for future smartphones.

The patent, filed back in March 2010 but published this week by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, describes a future phone that would have a detachable slider. Such a phone could have a feature that would allow it to accept one of several different accessories. Microsoft suggests that those secondary parts could include.  "... a battery, a virtual keyboard, one or more game controllers and one or more devices that can operate as mobile phone handsets. The first device can wirelessly communicate with more than one second device simultaneously."

Microsoft offers up some other examples for future smartphone designs. One of them could allow for " ... two displays on two separate devices. The separate devices can be attached and the two displays can be used as an integrated display or the devices can be detached and the devices can communicate wirelessly with each other." A future smartphone could also serve as a media or content server wirelessly connected to other devices.

While there's no indication that Microsoft is actively working on such designs for future smartphones it's clear that the company is at least thinking about how such devices might evolve in the years to come.

Image via Microsoft

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31 Comments

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Everyone wondering "what is MS gonna do with this patent? They don't make phones" this would no doubt be included in the WP7 License. Make a Windows Phone and you get access to this cool idea.

Only 3rd party manufacturers would require to pay MS use it, just like Apple does now.

Silver47 said,
Everyone wondering "what is MS gonna do with this patent? They don't make phones" this would no doubt be included in the WP7 License. Make a Windows Phone and you get access to this cool idea.

Only 3rd party manufacturers would require to pay MS use it, just like Apple does now.

So what? There is no law stating that you have to implement your patent. I agree, the patent process is broken and needs repair...

Okay, I have looked at the patent on the site, the above was my gut reaction... but this could be used as an umbrella to halt a lot of innovation in the moble market. This is a valid new use for existing tech and no one else has it on the market yet. But it really hurts innovation. This is not really that difficult except getting the components small enough to fit in compact formfactors... that is something to patent... all I have to say now is awh shucks!

mranderson1st said,
Okay, I have looked at the patent on the site, the above was my gut reaction... but this could be used as an umbrella to halt a lot of innovation in the moble market. This is a valid new use for existing tech and no one else has it on the market yet. But it really hurts innovation. This is not really that difficult except getting the components small enough to fit in compact formfactors... that is something to patent... all I have to say now is awh shucks!
Nah, this won't hurt anything. If MS gets approval, good. They can have Apple or Palm, etc pay royalties if they want to use this idea.

Going by your statement, the whole mobile industry (along with many consumer devices) would be screwed because of Apple's patents on multitouch...

tsupersonic said,
Nah, this won't hurt anything. If MS gets approval, good. They can have Apple or Palm, etc pay royalties if they want to use this idea.

Going by your statement, the whole mobile industry (along with many consumer devices) would be screwed because of Apple's patents on multitouch...

Apple uses their multitouch patents not for royalties but to literally *halt* other products. They are utterly ruthless!

The concept is cool, but I say Nay on allowing thsi to be patented!

No! Do not give them this patent. Many people are working on such projects and it should not be locked to one company to control.

If there is a spcific method maybe, but just the concept... this is more an idea than a process or invention. Swappable parts have been around for a long time. This is not a good idea. I even had this *idea* and I did not beleiev it was patent worthy becuase it is not really new. Just building on what others have done but with my own touch. Now a big company like MS is coming in and just taking rights to something that does not really take research in development etc. unless it is for their spacific way of solving problems related to swappble parts, or a specific interface the devised. I hope this is the case... otherwise... I say yet again Nay!

That's actually pretty bad ass. I would love to swap in a gamepad for Xbox live titles or another battery. This would make the typical touchscreen phones slightly bulkier though.

tsupersonic said,
That's actually pretty bad ass. I would love to swap in a gamepad for Xbox live titles or another battery. This would make the typical touchscreen phones slightly bulkier though.

It doesn't seem like it would make them significantly more bulky than ones that already include a sliding keyboard.

roadwarrior said,

It doesn't seem like it would make them significantly more bulky than ones that already include a sliding keyboard.
Right, I meant typical touchscreen phone as in no physical sliding keyboard.


While there's no indication that Microsoft is actively working on such designs for future smartphones it's clear that the company is at least thinking about how such devices might evolve in the years to come.

This encapsulates everything that's wrong with the patent system. "Sure we'll file a patent, and we have no intention of actually inventing anything, but we'll sure as hell profit from it when someone else invents it!

Majesticmerc said,

This encapsulates everything that's wrong with the patent system. "Sure we'll file a patent, and we have no intention of actually inventing anything, but we'll sure as hell profit from it when someone else invents it!


What if this individual does not have the capital to put his/her ideas into a physical product? It only makes sense that investors/corporations pay a fee to the inventor for their ideas. Otherwise, only the wealthy would have the incentive to be innovative. And we all know that all people of different levels of wealth are capable of being innovative.

Majesticmerc said,

This encapsulates everything that's wrong with the patent system. "Sure we'll file a patent, and we have no intention of actually inventing anything, but we'll sure as hell profit from it when someone else invents it!

no, it just encapsulates all that's wrong with your brain I guess. I don't have a lot of money, and I have this idea, do you think I can make this device?

however, I don't have that money but I can file a patent then sell my patent to someone more capable of getting the job done and I get money and they make money and everyone benefits.

your way of patenting doesn't benefit the average joe with a good idea.

ctrl_alt_delete said,

no, it just encapsulates all that's wrong with your brain I guess. I don't have a lot of money, and I have this idea, do you think I can make this device?

however, I don't have that money but I can file a patent then sell my patent to someone more capable of getting the job done and I get money and they make money and everyone benefits.

your way of patenting doesn't benefit the average joe with a good idea.

But if you didn't make it, how do you have any ownership? Noone should be able to patent an idea. Patent's are for inventions.

In theory, first-to-file can benefit the average joe (I guess), but behemoths like Microsoft (as a single example) have entire divisions committed entirely to coming up with new ideas, and to them, first-to-file is just a reservation system for putting roadblocks up in front of the competition. If you invent something, but your biggest competitor "thought of it first", and didn't create anything with it, why should you have to fork over money to them just because some of their neurons fired in the right order? Does that not sound ridiculous?

First-to-file is a patent trolls wet dream, but then I guess that depends on what your definition of an "invention" is. To me an invention is a specific idea AND an implementation.

P.S. Why the personal insult? Your point was a good counter argument, completely ruined by your first statement.

Xerax said,
I bet Microsoft were thinking "inb4 Apple".

Apple tends to opt for the "no moving parts" theory, so I doubt they would even attempt this.

They better have some imba locking mechanism to secure them on the phone; and make sure they are hot-swappable, even if it's an extra battery pack.

dimz said,
They better have some imba locking mechanism to secure them on the phone; and make sure they are hot-swappable, even if it's an extra battery pack.

Hot swappable would be a must.

With all those inserts though, I guess the fanny pack will be coming back into fashion...

dimz said,
They better have some imba locking mechanism to secure them on the phone; and make sure they are hot-swappable, even if it's an extra battery pack.

Questioning hot-swappable? Even your desktop PC can swap in and out the same demonstrated concepts, why would this device go back to 1990s concepts?

Considering anything by Microsoft will be Windows NT based (or CE), by default they will be hot-swappable - even if you are plugging in a bigger GPU or more RAM.


"The patent, filed back in March 2010 but published this week by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, describes a future phone"
That is the whole problem with patents. You 'describe' something on a piece of paper and get a patent.
A patent should only be given when something is built and demonstrated as workable to the USPO.


wahoospa said,

"The patent, filed back in March 2010 but published this week by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, describes a future phone"
That is the whole problem with patents. You 'describe' something on a piece of paper and get a patent.
A patent should only be given when something is built and demonstrated as workable to the USPO.

I don't agree at all, if someone else finds out you're trying to make xx but they have more money and manpower and beat you to the punch by making it first before you do then what? You're screwed.

GP007 said,

I don't agree at all, if someone else finds out you're trying to make xx but they have more money and manpower and beat you to the punch by making it first before you do then what? You're screwed.

Exactly. And you patent "ideas"... It's the whole foundation for the patent system...

GP007 said,

I don't agree at all, if someone else finds out you're trying to make xx but they have more money and manpower and beat you to the punch by making it first before you do then what? You're screwed.

The problem, and I mean in the broader terms, not specifically related to this patent filed by MS, is that companies are allowed to patent vague concept not a specific and detailed idea.

Edison patented a specific light bulb not the concept of a light bulb and Tesla was able to create and build a different kind of light bulb.

GP007 said,

I don't agree at all, if someone else finds out you're trying to make xx but they have more money and manpower and beat you to the punch by making it first before you do then what? You're screwed.

Are you being ironic here because I think MS is among the wealthiest corps and has more money and manpower and beat you to the punch by making it first before you.

Konstantine said,

And... why are you giving us this link?

Because tom likes to do that to neowin. Let's all post links to WMPU on his site! /s

Konstantine said,

And... why are you giving us this link?

I meant to copy and paste something from there, "a keyboard device can be used for the smartphone when attached to it, when detached it can act as a remote control for a TV, etc." That's something I'd like to see in my living room!