Microsoft's latest mobile patent may provide next-generation Surface device clues

A newly revealed Microsoft patent application for a foldable phone and hinge has reignited speculation about the company's plans to re-enter the mobile-device space.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Will Microsoft end up making a mobile device that is reminiscent of the cancelled Courier dual-screen tablet and Surface Mini devices?

Credit: US PTO

Those waiting for the company to take another shot at the mobile market are hoping so.

In 2014, Microsoft applied for a patent for new mobile computing devices sporting a new type of flexible hinge. That patent has surfaced (pun intended) thanks to MSPowerUser.com, and has set off a bunch of speculation as to what Microsoft might deliver next under the "Surface" banner. The images embedded in this blog post are from that Microsoft patent application.

The images in the patent application show off a foldable device that also can be extended to look like a mini-tablet.

Credit: US PTO

Microsoft isn't the only company dabbling with foldable mobile-device concepts. Last week, word was circulating of both Samsung's and LG's intent to introduce foldable phones in calendar 2017.

Microsoft, like every tech company, applies for and receives many patents, not all of which are for products, services, and components which end up part of commercial products. However, the individual listed as the inventor for the latest Microsoft flexible hinge patent -- Kabir Siddiqui -- also has been a driving force for a number of other hinge-related Microsoft patents.

Credit: US PTO

Microsoft officials said previously that Microsoft's focus in mobile, moving forward is on the business market. They've also said they consider Continuum -- the capability that enables phones to use large-screen displays and keyboards -- to be a differentiator for the company in the mobile space.

I'd bet if any kind of foldable Microsoft mobile device does come to market, it will be running Microsoft's recently announced Windows 10 on ARM operating system with built-in x86 emulation. If that's the case, I'd be surprised to see anything beyond a possible prototype Surface mobile device in calendar 2017, since that coming ARM operating system implementation is likely a Fall 2017 deliverable, at best.

Microsoft is bringing Windows 10 desktop to ARM processors:

Editorial standards