Microsoft’s announcement of the dual-screen Surface Neo in October 2019 caught the attention of many – not least because of the long lead time until its release in Q4 2020. Test hardware was on show, including the type cover keyboard that covered two-third of one screen.
Being a type cover it is detachable, which should help in lowering the number of models required for worldwide sales – if everything can be done in software, but the physical keyboard can be removable, it’s easy to switch in regional keyboards.
It also offers the intriguing possibility of what else could be attached. How about a gaming focused controller?
The patent, titled “Hinged Device And Associated Input Device” talks about the design of type covers for dual screened device. Windows Latest reports:
“According to the patent application, Microsoft’s Surface Neo could become an ultimate gaming and productivity device at the same time. In the filing, Microsoft has highlighted a variant of Surface Neo that could come with input device featuring “a trackpack or game controller”.
“In this example, the input device is manifest as a keyboard device. In other implementations, the input device can be manifest as a trackpad or game controller, among others,” the patent reads.”
Of course the inclusion of a feature in a patent does’t mean that the feature will make it to the consumer, it could easily be in there to act as a defensive line to stop other companies working on similar hardware.
But in the grand tradition of Taniyama-Shimura, let’s assume that the R&D teams in Redmond have been considering a game controller for the Windows 10X machine.
This won’t be the first time that Microsoft has looked at putting different controls on a Type Cover. The Surface Music Kit was a detachable cover that featured touch sensitive sound fx triggers, audio sliders, and playback controls. More recently, work on a type cover featuring solar panels was uncovered.
Thanks to Microsoft’s promotional videos, we’ve already sent a type cover for the Windows 10X powered Surface Neo. This would flip up to cover around two thirds of the lower screen, leaving the upper part of the screen as a secondary display, and the second screen as the main laptop-esque screen.
There is precedent that would suggest Microsoft would consider specific covers for specific uses, although I suspect that only covers which would be purchased in significant numbers would make the cut. Which leads back to the idea of a gaming cover.
Microsoft is pushing further into the games market on the PC. You have the Xbox Game Pass offering a subscription service for PC games, the ongoing development of the xCloud streaming games service, and of course the Xbox One X is to all intents a PC running Windows 10 without lacking any of the obvious ties.
To offer an extra level of gaming on the compact Surface Neo gives the dual-screened device another target market… a portable gaming machine which plays just as well at home with joypads and keyboards as it does while travelling with a D-pad and hotkeys on a type cover.
This is going to get interesting.
Now read about the smaller Surface Duo being spotted in public on a Vancouver train…