Microsoft files patent for interchangeable-devices phone

Sep 26, 2011 by Nancy Owano weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- Microsoft has filed for a patent featuring slider smartphones designed to also carry interchangeable modules such as game controller, a spare battery or keyboard. The Microsoft patent is entitled "Mobile communication device having multiple, interchangeable second devices." The patent describes Microsoft’s handheld mobile communication device with interchangeable parts. The key advantage is that the phone would allow a user to make fuller use of technical capabilities in a single mobile device.

According to the patent, it is desirable to provide a mobile communications device sized for convenience yet allowing the user full functionality of the device.

“Modern mobile phones have evolved over recent years to the point where they now possess a broad range of capabilities. They are not only capable of placing and receiving calls, multimedia messaging (MMS), and sending and receiving email, they can also access the Internet, are GPS-enabled, possess considerable processing power and large amounts of memory, and are equipped with high-resolution color liquid crystal displays capable of detecting touch input. As such, today’s mobile phones are general purpose computing and telecommunication devices capable of running a multitude of applications. For example, modern mobile phones can run web browser, navigation system, media player and gaming applications,” says the patent application.

The patent was filed in March 2010 but published last week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent was filed by Gregory Jones, Lisa Hanson and Thomas Kleist.

Market reactions to the patent news were mixed. Some watchers thought the patent concept as described seemed quirky and burdensome. Others thought Microsoft's idea was impressive and capable of becoming a market success, as a high-end mobile device housing varied accessories that could be swappable according to user moods and needs. One frequent comment, though, has been the reminder that Microsoft is not the first company to have explored the idea of multifunctioning smartphones.

Modu attempted a phone module that could be plugged into different jackets. Modu ceased operations earlier this year. Google bought its patents.

Last year, NTT Docomo introduced a Separable Phone as the world's first handset that separates into two functional units for multitasking.

As for Microsoft’s endeavor, “The company clearly sees the potential, though, hence the push for a patent. We won't hold our breath,” wrote Caleb Cox of Register Hardware.

SlashGear posed the question of whether Microsoft was directly working on such a phone or whether it simply sought additional clout, as in keeping other firms from making something without paying fees to Microsoft.

Explore further: Index ranks Japan Asia's most efficient innovator (Update)

Related Stories

Amazon's Bezos envisions airbag phone, files patent

Aug 14, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A U.S. patent application was filed in February 11, 2010 bearing the names of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Amazon VP Greg Hart but was discovered this week by Geekwire. According to their patent application titled "Protecting Devi ...

Microsoft Announces Windows Mobile 6.5

Feb 17, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- At the Mobile World Congress 2009 in Barcelona, Microsoft officially revealed the new Windows phones featuring new user-friendly software and services. The next generation of Windows phones ...

Microsoft asks court to hold off on Word ban

Aug 19, 2009

(AP) -- Microsoft Corp. is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to allow it to keep selling Word software as it fights an unfavorable patent ruling.

Motorola sues Apple for patent infringement

Oct 06, 2010

Motorola, just days after being targeted in a patent suit by Microsoft, filed complaints against Apple on Wednesday alleging that the iPhone, iPad and other products infringe its patents.

Recommended for you

White House backs use of body cameras by police

3 hours ago

Requiring police officers to wear body cameras is one potential solution for bridging deep mistrust between law enforcement and the public, the White House said, weighing in on a national debate sparked by the shooting of ...

Apple helps iTunes users delete free U2 album

12 hours ago

Apple on Monday began helping people boot U2 off their iTunes accounts after a cacophony of complaints about not wanting the automatically downloaded free album by the Irish rock band.

User comments : 15

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jamesrm
3 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2011
Their lawyers probably said
"If we don't patent this crap idea apple will, and the cost to M$oft would be negligible.

http://www.physor...ity.html
Shakescene21
4.4 / 5 (7) Sep 26, 2011
This is an obvious idea, analogous to a component system for home audio. It shouldn't be patentable because it will give Micro$oft the legal monopoly power to rip off everybody else who wants a component-type communication device.
ddavex
not rated yet Sep 26, 2011
Surely it'd be better to have an touchscreen in its place? No little components to lose down the back of the sofa.
NameIsNotNick
5 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2011
How is this an original idea? If they can patent this the patent system is beyond repair.
CHollman82
1 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2011
Their lawyers probably said
"If we don't patent this crap idea apple will, and the cost to M$oft would be negligible.


Crap idea? It's a fantastic idea. I have an Evo 4G and would love it if I could just choose to equip it with an extra battery or a game controller, or an amplified speaker system or a full keyboard, or any number of other novel extensions through a standardized expansion port. Obviously to keep phones as small as they are they can't be everything to everyone all the time, but with something like this they could at least be customized to individual needs or desires.
NotAsleep
1 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2011
If it's so obvious of an idea then you guys must be kicking yourselves for not filing for the patent before Microsoft
Taubus
5 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2011
patents are void if the same concept has been published before. I cant imagine no-one has ever published anything that is like this... (could even be just a drawing)

The (famous) Donald Duck prior art case:
http://www.iusmen...aldduck/
NotAsleep
not rated yet Sep 26, 2011
Taubus, thank you for that!!! It would seem as though Wile E. Coyote probably owns the patent to most cool things that could possibly be invented
CHollman82
1 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2011
patents are void if the same concept has been published before. I cant imagine no-one has ever published anything that is like this... (could even be just a drawing)


Modular design is everywhere... I am working on a modular optical test suite as we speak with different "hot swappable" instruments that all work within the same mainframe.
Nanobanano
1 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2011
This is an obvious idea, analogous to a component system for home audio. It shouldn't be patentable because it will give Micro$oft the legal monopoly power to rip off everybody else who wants a component-type communication device.


Definitely obvious and should not be patentable.

I've personally described exactly this type of modularity in mobile devices in the past, and even suggested in the past entire businesses run on mobile device platforms with modular adapters for full screen monitors, networking, and keyboarding.

If it's so obvious of an idea then you guys must be kicking yourselves for not filing for the patent before Microsoft.


It IS obvious.

I've discussed this on this site in the past at least one time, and probably several times.

I had this idea several months ago, and described how it could theoretically replace most PC applications in small offices, and could make PC totally obsolete for some private users.
Jotaf
not rated yet Sep 26, 2011
How was this assigned a patent? Chinese gadgets and toys have had interchangeable parts for years. This is a joke compared to patents that actually describe some scientific discovery or non-trivial technology.

"If it's so obvious of an idea then you guys must be kicking yourselves for not filing for the patent before Microsoft."

Damn, I wish I patented the wheel... Nobody ever did that and it would make me rich :)

On the other hand, I find it kinda funny that the patents have become a sort of a "spoiler" for the future of giants like Apple and Microsoft! Way to ruin the surprise.
Nanobanano
1 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2011
I really should be working at some kind of think tank or inventions firm where you can build concepts of the synthesis and composition of existing ideas and technology to work in new ways.

I seem to be pretty damn good at anticipating the next application of technology, even if I rarely have the technical understanding of every component.

Besides, this is just the beginning, companies are already designing medical devices that interface with smartphone technology. Microsoft doesn't deserve a patent on the concept of modularity, goodness, nobody does...
Callippo
not rated yet Sep 26, 2011
It shouldn't be patentable because it will give Micro$oft the legal monopoly power to rip off everybody else who wants a component-type communication device.
If MS wouldn't patent it, someone else could do it. Did you forget the Eolas case?

http://en.wikiped...ki/Eolas
This is an obvious idea, analogous to a component system for home audio
Tell it to patent office at the moment, when it can get some money for filling of patents - no matter, how nonsensical they actually are...
krundoloss
not rated yet Sep 26, 2011
It looks pretty cool to me. It does seem to be a rather generic Idea, though. Does it really mean that no portable device is allowed to have interchangable upgrades without paying M$? What if you put another screen in there, does that count? It seems like they could patent the design, the interface, but not the idea, its too generalized. Its like saying you cant have a touchscreen on your phone because someone has a patent on "Touchscreen on an electronic device".
El_Nose
5 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2011
Please remember patents have to a) be unique b) a first appearnce (not done before in any accepted fashion... you can't patent a potato chip - but you can patent a unique recipe that has never filed for patent) c) able to be discribed in such a way that the process/outcome/system are clearly understood

This patent meets these criteria -- what you are seeing are the techincal details of the patent in this post. Microsoft obviously feels that there are only a hand ful of interfaces that are feasible to accomplish this task so this makes for an ideal patent oppertunity --

be mad if you like that MS did it first, but Apple patented pinching to zoom in and out on your smartphone screen -- i wonder how much that costs every andriod phone user ?

touch screens are not patented - how they work/constructed is patented and there are many different types - and you pay the royalty whenever you buy a touch screen device.