In October 2017 a tweet from Microsoft’s SVP OS Group Joe Belfiore all but admitted that Microsoft had dropped out of the smartphone business. Then in July 2018 an internal Microsoft leak surfaced about a disruptive foldable smartphone in the works. Later in July Wired interviewed Microsoft’s SVP hardware devices Panos Panay and tried to get him to admit there was a new phone in the works. Panay hummed and hawed and danced around that direct question and finally said, “Well … I wouldn’t say it includes a Surface Phone,” but then later added that “I think communication changes … and evolves.” It’s a game of semantics. If you have a FaceTime session on your Mac, does it make it a smartphone? No, but it’s still communications like a phone.
At the top of this month Patently Apple posted a report titled “Contrary to Company Denials, the U.S. Patent Office Reveals another Microsoft Patent Pending Dual Display Smartphone.” And as the month closes out this week Patently Apple has discovered three new IP developments published by the U.S. Patent from Microsoft regarding smartphones.
The first patent application presented below was filed on February 20, 2018 – months after the tweet from Joe Belfiore. Did Microsoft’s phone team just not get the memo? Did they still file the patent so that they could license out the technology? While we don’t have an answer as to why Microsoft continues to file modern smartphone patents, we’ll continue to post information about their smartphone developments as they surface at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database … just in case.
#1 – Thermal Dock for Mobile Devices
The first of three new smartphone patents from Microsoft covers thermal management and more specifically, covers a thermal dock that cools a mobile device.
Microsoft’s patent application notes that the purpose of thermal management is to maintain the temperature of a device within a moderate range. During operation, electronic devices dissipate power as heat that is to be removed from the device. Otherwise, the electronic device will get hotter and hotter until the electronic device fails, reducing service life of the electronic device. Short of failure, electronic devices run slowly and dissipate power poorly at high temperatures.
As devices get thinner, thermal management becomes more of an issue. Depending on the thickness of the device, there may not be sufficient room within the device for active thermal management components such as, for example, fans.
As mobile devices (e.g., phones and tablets) replace larger laptop and desktop computers, the microprocessors may sometimes be tasked with running a full desktop environment and may thus generate more heat. The mobile device may be positioned on a thermal dock to remove enough heat from the mobile device so that the mobile device may run the full desktop environment.
Disclosed herein are apparatuses, systems, and methods for improved heat dissipation from an electronic device. The improved heat dissipation within the electronic device may be provided by a thermal dock including an active cooling device (e.g., a Peltier device) that is physically connected (e.g., at a hot side of the Peltier device) to a spring-loaded heat sink. Magnets located on a computing device (e.g., a back side of the computing device, opposite a display of the computing device) to be cooled and the thermal dock, respectively, keep the back side of the computing device in physical contact with the Peltier device. The thermal dock also includes one or more fans positioned in line with the heat sink to cool the heat sink and thus the hot side of the Peltier device physically connected to the heat sink.
When the computing device is docked with the thermal dock, data may be transmitted between the computing device and the thermal dock via respective transceiver modules. The transceiver modules include locating features (e.g., a protrusion and a recess) to locate the computing device relative to the thermal dock, and, more specifically, the transceiver modules relative to each other, such that communication between the computing device and the thermal dock is possible.
Microsoft’s patent FIG. 8 FIG. a bottom view of an example of a computing device 800 with a cover removed. The computing device #800 is dockable on a thermal dock as noted below in FIG. 4.
Microsoft filed this patent application in Q1 2018 and the U.S. Patent Office published it on Thursday.
#2 – Smart Battery for Ultrafast Charging
The second Microsoft patent application for smartphones relates to ultrafast charging of a smart battery on a computing device. While the primary focus of the patent filing is aimed at a smartphone, like most patents, the company doesn’t limit the invention to a smartphone and lists other possible devices that could use this invention such as Surface tablets/2-in-1’s, the Surface Book and others.
In Microsoft’s patent FIG. 7 presented above we’re able to see conceptual diagram #700 of a structure of a smart battery and its components. For example, the conceptual diagram includes an example of smart battery that uses one or more micro-coils for harvesting power from high-frequency signals. Although not shown, each battery module of smart battery #120 may include at least one charging coil.
Micro-coils 702-1, 702-2, 702-3, 702-4, 702-5, and 702-n are smaller in size than charging coils 208-1, 208-2, 208-3, 208-4, 208-5, and 208-n, and are configured to harvest power from based on the high frequency signal coupling energy to at least one of the plurality of micro-coils.
The patent was filed in early 2017 and published on Thursday by the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office.
#3 – Full Screen Smartphone
Microsoft’s third smartphone patent that surfaced this week was a granted patent relating to a smartphone with a close to full screen design that is now the rage.
For more details on this invention, review granted patent 10,057,999.
For the record: The first two patent applications in this report had absolutely no connection to Nokia employees that Microsoft inherited back in 2013.
The latter patent regarding a close-to full display for a smartphone lists one of the inventors as Vicente Calvo Alonso who was a principle engineer at Nokia in 2013. He was promoted by Microsoft in 2016 as Lead Innovator, Display and Touch Technologies and has since returned to Finland as CEO and co-founder of Comptek Solutions Oy.
At the end of the day, Microsoft’s leaked memo talked about a disruptive folding device and it’s just as clear that Microsoft may not market it as a “smartphone” according to their SVP of hardware. It could very well be that their Nokia branded phones were seen as old baggage and a loser from day one for Microsoft.
After a few years of being out of the market, Microsoft might want to restart with new phone-like line of products with a clean slate and a fresh start under the Surface brand. They may be seeking to be disruptive in nature right out of the gate so as to set the Surface brand as new, bold and innovative so as to differentiate their products from the likes of Google’s Pixel and Apple’s iPhone.
Microsoft’s hardware to date has not made a dent worth caring about, even though they have some very nice designs. While I’m personally a big fan of their Surface Book and Surface Studio designs, I’m just not rich enough to afford their hardware, like most.
Now with smartphones from Apple, Samsung and Red selling for between $US1,000 to $1,800, perhaps Microsoft is thinking of re-entering the smartphone market (…or smart-mobile devices with communication capabilities – Ha!).
It’s not like their hardware to date has ever come close to challenging Apple. So should a cool dual display smartphone with thermal docking and fast charging surface in the next year or two, it’s unlikely to be an iPhone challenger – even if it ends up being a cooler design.
One More Thing: Earlier this month The Verge posted a report titled “The Galaxy Note 9 is one step closer to the smartphone-computer dream.” Microsoft started this trend with Continuum. With one of today’s covered patents introducing a Thermal Dock, it’s clear that the smartphone-computer was/is being reinforced by Microsoft. Of course Microsoft could license the technology or bring it to market in future products. Only time will tell which direction they take.
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