Apple patent vindicates Microsoft's Surface design

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

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.

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