Apple patent vindicates Microsoft's Surface design

Apple patent vindicates Microsoft's Surface design

Summary: Microsoft's idea for a keyboard case was right on the money.

TOPICS: Tablets, Apple, CXO, Microsoft

commentary It's interesting to see that Microsoft wasn't the only company thinking about the potential for cases to augment tablets.

The Surface
(Credit: Microsoft)

Apple has lodged a patent on a smart case, which can double as a virtual keyboard. In my mind, this shows that Microsoft was right on the money with its case keyboards for the Surface tablet.

But Apple's case can do a lot more than just be a keyboard; it can also be a second screen, and be folded like the current cover, enabling the same slanted workstation. So Apple could still give Microsoft the finger if it brings the accessory out.

It looks like Apple was actually first with the idea, lodging the patent application last year.

Still, unless something odd happens, Microsoft will be first out with an actual product, which is set to come out on 26 October, the same date that Windows 8 becomes generally available.

Along with a multi-touch keyboard, Microsoft's also offering a mechanical keyboard option, which will play to all of those executives who hate the typing-on-glass experience, instead liking to feel what their fingers are doing. The issue with offering this for Apple is that it would have to get rid of the dinky folding ability of the case, and there are already other manufacturers offering mechanical options.

Microsoft got around not having a folding case by using a kickstand. Hey, it's not pretty — it looks kind of like one from a bike — but it works, right?

Possibly Microsoft's biggest drawcard is that we've already seen chief information officers around the world being bullish around the Surface tablet, believing that it could be a great device for mobility in the corporate world depending on the price. They're likely sucked in a bit by hopes of a good, competitive fight, and by the swanky pictures of the device. But the positive leanings count for something.

So, has Microsoft actually got the jump on Apple, even if it's just with a case? I think so. Let the fight begin.

Topics: Tablets, Apple, CXO, Microsoft

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • I disagree

    with your assertion. Why should Apple's patent be a vindication of Microsoft's touch cover? Both companies have been known to produce duds (Microsoft especially, in recent times). User uptake will be the ultimate "vindication" for MS' strategy. That said, I really like touch cover and I hope it succeeds.
  • doesnt matter who comes out first

    apple patented it and will sue MS if there is any way possible. apple is going to keep up the legal defenses as long as its losing ground! Plain and simple. #boycotapple
    • Who says Apple is loosing ground?

      I've seen no such evidence.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
    • Apple cant sue Microsoft.

      They cant, its law and its still in effect.

      As far as the product is concerned, neither can do squat to each other.
    • Apple's and MS's cover are fundamentally different.

      From the Apple patent, Apples claims are for a FLEXIBLE cover that is also a DISPLAY. The MS keyboard cover does not appear to infringe Apple's patent. The Apple cover also has much more functionality and should blow away the MS version, since the graphics on the keyboard are generated through the software and could change depending on the application. For example it could display a set of pull down menus, without taking up space on the main display. Actually, if they do do that, it's a great idea and might make me reconsider my dislike for the iPad.
      • Um.... its a patent

        Apple haven't actually built it yet and they would not be the first to make a dualscreen tablet by a long shot. Renaming it a 'cover' does not validate it as a new idea. I would have thought that this was obvious, but there always seems to be a need to say things out loud.....
    • Or Maybe Not

      Notice that Apple and Microsoft haven't been suing each other much lately. The enemy of my enemy is my friend (until we've eradicated the enemy)?
    • LOL!

      How are they going to sue Microsoft when they patented it first. You can be damn sure Microsoft patented touch cover a very long time. You can also be sure Apple doesn't want to screw with Microsoft's lawyers or their massive treasure trove of patents.
      • The 5'9" giant

        I think you have an inflated sense of Microsoft's size and clout. Apple had no qualms about "screwing with" Samsung's lawyers, and Samsung is several times bigger than Microsoft. Heck, Samsung is as big as Apple.

        As I recall, Apple and Microsoft have one of those deals where they cross-licensed all each other's patents. It's private, so we don't know whether it only covers patents in existence when it was signed, or all patents for some time in the future.
        Robert Hahn
      • How are [Apple] going to sue Microsoft when [Apple] patented it first?

        I guess that's what you mean, because the article says very clearly that:

        [quote]It looks like Apple was actually first with the idea, lodging the patent application last year.

        Unless you [i]know[/i] something that the author doesn't, saying that "Microsoft patented touch cover a very long time" is nothing more than speculation.
    • Funny...

      Microsoft is the company that loves to sue for patents, even the bogus ones. Apple use Patents for their intended purpose. A Patent is a license to have a temporary Monopoly. Microsft suing Android phone makers for using the FAT file format, should not be allowed, as Microsft abandoned that 10+years ago, and is therefor being abusive. Apple only sues when another blatently copies. Can you see the difference? One is the act of an Abusive, Predatory, Monopolist. The other is stopping others from blatantly copying their designs.
      Jumpin Jack Flash
    • Apple Losing Ground?

      Apple losing ground, have you not read any tech news for the last 5 years or so? Apple is worth way more than MS and the Mac is steadily making in-roads on the PC and I won't even talk about Zune vs ipod or Windows Phone vs Iphone and I doubt MS surface will fair much better against Ipad, at least if anyone has a brain and been screwed by MS before like the Vista mess.
  • Ohhh Look

    It's a kneecapped laptop with a keyboard made from recycled flip-flops.
    Alan Smithie
  • Ohhh Look

    It's a kneecapped laptop with a keyboard made from recycled flip-flops.
    Alan Smithie
  • What non-sense

    Microsoft makes something. Apple applies a patent for that. How it vindicates MS, What is vindicated.
    Van Der
    • What a moron Van Der is

      Let's see....

      Microsoft Surface w/ smart cover keyboard
      --> Announced by Microsoft on 6/18/2012.

      Apple patent application 20120194448 for smart cover with keyboard and display
      --> Filed by Apple on 8/11/2011.

      Last I checked, 8/11/2011 came before 6/12/2012 .

      Or does the world you live in have time running backward?
  • What she means is

    that once apple produce something (not yet admittedly), their loyal fans will be told to buy it, the whole keyboard case becomes popular bada bing bada boom and that will vindicate the MS product.
    Little Old Man
  • Getting Real

    It will be nice to have a tablet you can do REAL work on.
  • Personally...

    I cant wait for a Windows 8 Pro Tablet that can run both Metro Apps AND ESPECIALLY... all WINDOWS Applications. I want the full version of Windows. Hopefully the hardware is ready for this to run well.
    • Of course I'd buy New Coke

      Why haven't you bought a Windows 7 tablet? As the name implies, those run WINDOWS applications. They've been available for years. They're about the same price as an iPad. And yet, you apparently don't have one. You just -talk- about buying one that isn't available. I sure hope the guy at Microsoft who has to make the build forecast for Surface Pro isn't expecting all the 'talkers' to actually buy.
      Robert Hahn