'Microsoft Technology Licensing' invents new Hinge Supporting Foldable Flexible Display Devices for Microsoft and/or Partners
Earlier this month the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Microsoft that relates to a flexible hinge system designed for folding a large single flexible display very much like Samsung's Galaxy Fold.
Microsoft has a few patents on future folding devices, like this one, that described two display panels with a hinge in the center. Other designs, like the one today focuses on the more modern flexible display form factor like the ones from Huawei and Samsung.
One of the major problems with the Galaxy Fold, that they're still trying to iron out to this day, centers on the hinge area that allowed debris to enter the hinge area. Microsoft's patent covers a new design specifically created for a single large flexible display with a different take from the Samsung version.
Microsoft's introductory FIGS. 1A-1C below present an example device (#100) that has first and second portions (#102 and #104) that are rotatably secured together by a hinge assembly (#106). A flexible display (#108) is secured to the first and second portions. In this case, the flexible display is fixedly secured to both the first and second portions (e.g., the flexible display does not slide relative to the first and second portions during rotation). This configuration avoids relative movement between the device portions and the flexible display that could cause reliability problems, such as short circuits in circuitry connected to the flexible display.
The radius hinge assembly can allow the computing device to rotate through a range of rotation from a deployed or open orientation (e.g., 180-degrees in this implementation) of FIG. 1A, through a partially open orientation of FIG. 1B, to the storage or closed orientation of FIG. 1C.
In some implementations, the closed orientation can be about zero degrees (e.g., in a range of +/- a few degrees, such as 5-degrees). In the illustrated implementation, the closed orientation is about -2-degrees).
The deployed orientation of FIG. 1A can provide the user with a relatively large display area while the storage orientation can provide a smaller device footprint while protecting the flexible display from damage.
Intermediate orientations can be utilized for various purposes. For instance, the user may want to use the device in a similar fashion to a notebook computer in the orientation shown in FIG. 1B. The hinge assembly can maintain the device in these various orientations unless acted upon by the user to change the orientation.
The device is shown in a manner to emphasize the flexible display and the hinge assembly. However, the device may include other components. For instance, in one case, the first and second portions can be manifest as housings. Electronic components, such as processors and/or storage, may be positioned on and/or in the housing and may be interconnected by conductors extending between the two portions and/or to the flexible display.
A myriad of device implementations is contemplated. For instance, the device can be manifest as an e-reader, a laptop computer, a tablet computer, a smartphone computer, a wearable smart device, a display device, a home appliance, a component of an airline seat, and/or a component of a vehicle, among other implementations.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 2 below shows us the device in an open orientation with a region of the flexible display removed to reveal underlying components that are enlarged in FIG. 3A.
Microsoft notes that the hinge assembly can include (1) multiple hinge segments (#306); (2) living hinges (#308); (3) multi-pivot timing chains (# 310).
Microsoft's patent FIG. 7 below shows the hinge assembly in a 90-degree orientation.
In Microsoft's detailed patent FIG. 8A the hinge segments (#306) are rotating relative to their foci (F.sub.1-F.sub.6). More specifically, arcuate tabs (#406) are traveling in adjacent arcuate cavities (#408).
On a global scale, the living hinge 308(1) can maintain the first portion (#102), hinge segments (#306) and second portion (#104). However, on a granular scale, the living hinge is allowing subtle relative movement between adjacent hinge segments.
Last Monday Bill Gates admitted that Microsoft's greatest mistake ever was allowing Android to beat them as the non-Apple Phone Platform. It's a mistake that Microsoft attempted to remedy over the years but never quite got their phone platform established, even after acquiring Nokia. It was a costly endeavor that failed miserably under Steve Ballmer.
Last year Microsoft's VP of Hardware Panos Panay made it clear in an interview with Lauren Goode, a reporter for Wired, that a 'Surface Phone' wasn't on their Roadmap. Lauren Goode didn't buy it. Even in this recent Microsoft patent filing a smartphone is listed as one of the optional devices. Technically speaking, Microsoft could be designing a foldable device or devices that will be able to access the internet and yet not be considered a phone. Adding telephony could simply be an option for users.
Going full circle, it's an established fact that Intel is working on Project Athena that will begin to roll out in Q4 2019 and ramp up. This is all about foldable devices like the 2020 foldable that's getting a lot of buzz from Lenovo. We also covered the possibility that Apple could eventually challenge the Lenovo device with a special edition foldable iPad Pro.
It may be here where Microsoft actually makes an attempt to challenge the smartphone platform with a new kind of platform designed for large foldable devices that will need a powerful new OS that could support split screen applications for enterprise multitaskers while supporting the Xbox streaming service and more.
Microsoft and Intel have been working on this project for some time now and it sounds like Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus and others will be onboard to push these next-gen foldable devices in volume. By quickly establishing a new platform and having traditional Wintel distributors onboard, the biggest mistake in Microsoft's history may be overturned if they can get ahead of Android in this new category.
At the end of the day, while it's only one of a few Microsoft patents on hinges for a foldable device, in the bigger picture it represents Microsoft's dream of having a winning mobile platform that has a chance of challenging iOS and Android.
A lot of Microsoft's patents like this latest one are registered to "Microsoft Technology Licensing.' So the patent-pending hinge could be used by Microsoft and/or licensed to any of Wintel's partners.
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