Companies are increasingly allowing their consumers greater control over the specifications of the product they purchase. In what has the potential to prove a major step along the same path, Microsoft has patented a modular PC device.
The company had earlier applied for the patent rights of what it is calling “modular computing device”. Not only would such a device — if realized — allow people to get exactly the kind of personal computing system they want, but would also allow them to upgrade individual components without having to go to the trouble — and expense — of changing out the whole system.
The company had applied for the patent as early as last year, however, it published it on the 11 of February.
The patent looked to have drawn quite a bit of inspiration from the surface range of tablets. Indeed, Tim Escolin, a senior industrial designer for the Surface devices is one of the authors of the patent.
Modulation is nothing particularly new for Microsoft either. The company had earlier released the modular Xbox one elite controllers, which were quite popular with the masses and received critical acclaim. The controller features D-pads and buttons, that can be removed or attached at the whim of the gamer.
The company had also promoted Project Christine, which was gaming PC maker Razer’s attempt at creating a modular gaming PC, back at the 2014 CES.
Other major corporations are also taking steps in the direction. There are also a string of startups that have taken to crowdfunding to successfully fuel their drive to create modular electronics.
Acer for example, launched a modular PC in September last year that let’s users build upon their basic device by attaching Sound and power bank modules to upgrade their machines. The memory on the system is also a block, that can be upgraded as easily as switching out the blocks. Acer has also promised to bring out new modules for its $225 Revo build PC, in the future.
What’s more, there are no cables or glues or anything of the sort involved. Everything is based upon pins and magnets, that can be aligned and fixed — as simple as that. We expect Microsoft’s design to be similar.
In essence, even the regular PC units are somewhat modular. You could technically speaking, switch out most of the parts with others. However, doing so would require a degree of knowledge without which, you would be more likely to mess things up or even end up getting a shock. Building and modifying modular systems on the other hand, is rather like building Lego’s.
The patent publication does sum it up quite prettily.
In this way, the computing device may be altered and changed readily by a user in an intuitive manner without requiring detailed knowledge of the hardware,
Similarly, Google’s Project Ara has been grabbing much spotlight — although in a different niche. The company was last reported to be hard at work creating a smartphone with little square blocks housing the camera, speakers and batteries, making upgrading as easy as buying and fixing new blocks.
Well, while a mere patent is nowhere near an actual product, the signs for a modular system in the near future are all there. The fact that Microsoft is taking enough of an interest to patent the technology means that the company is seriously looking into the possibilities in the direction. And who would be a better choice than Microsoft, the pioneer of computing, to introduce the world to the varied advantages of the next stage in personal computing.