Microsoft patents reveal a possible Future 3-Display Surface Smartphone and Orientation Sensors for Foldable Tablets
Our non-Apple patent site called Patently Mobile first covered a Microsoft for a foldable device in January 2017, four years prior to it's debut on the market as the Surface Duo. We covered others prior to its debut here: 01, 02 & 03. On December 23, 2021, the U.S. Patent Office posted a new Microsoft patent application titled "Multi-Panel Device." Originally filed three months prior to the original Surface Duo launched. It is in this patent that Microsoft also envisions a possible move towards introducing a 3-Display Panel version of their Surface smartphone.
Patently Apple posted an IP report about Samsung contemplating a 3-display panel version of their Galaxy Fold smartphone back in October 2020. Once pricing drops for the dual display devices, like they're beginng to with the new Oppo folding phone at $1,200, a 3-display panel device could be where this trend goes.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 14 below illustrates a 3-display device #1400. A first display panel #1402 is connected to a second display panel #1404 via a first hinge #1406. The second display panel is connected to a third display panel #1408 via a second hinge #1410. The first and third display panels may pivot, such that the three display panels are stacked on top of each other in order to reduce an overall form factor of the multi-panel display device.
Microsoft's patent FIGS. 10 and 11 represent the original Surface Duo smartphone.
For those wanting to drill down further into the details of Microsoft's patent application 20210397281, click here.
Patent #2: Device Orientation Sensor
For those following Microsoft's Surface device evolution, a second patent application that was published by the U.S. Patent Office on December 23, 2021 covered their original Surface Neo device which was a foldable tablet. The patent covered Surface Neo's "Orientation Sensor."
Microsoft's patent FIG. 4A below illustrates the keyboard accessory #404 in a stowed or 360-degree orientation relative to portion #106. FIG. 4B shows the accessory rotated 90 degrees relative to the orientation of FIG. 4A. FIG. 4E shows the accessory rotated approximately 360 degrees relative to the orientation of FIG. 4A to a deployed or zero-degree orientation against display 402(2). FIG. 4F shows the first portion closed on the second portion with the accessory sandwiched in between and keeping the first and second portions slightly spaced apart.
For those wanting to drill down further into the details of Microsoft's patent application 20210396549, click here.
Microsoft's original foldable tablet was branded the "Surface Neo" that was originally due to debut in Q4 2020, then delayed to Q4 2021. Due to COVID-19, supply shortages and other factors, Microsoft decided to sideline the project.
A strong secondary reason for the project failing to launch, for the time being at least, is that Microsoft, Intel and Samsung created an alliance to co-develop future foldable display tablets using a single 17" display panel instead of two separate displays with a clearly visible face-hinge like Surface Neo was to be. The collaboration was known as Horseshoe Bend Project. We covered a major Microsoft patent supporting the Horseshoe Bend Project in April of this year, here.
Once processors and key components are readily available, I'm of the view that foldable tablets will finally make their way to market.
In March of this year, Apple finally revealed that one of their foldable device patents was in fact for a future foldable tablet/iPad. Foldable tablets could definitely be one of the next product battlegrounds along with Apple's entry into Mixed Reality Headsets in the not-too-distant future..