Microsoft Files Patent For Upgradable, Modular Surface All-in-One PC System

Microsoft is actually starting to pick up a bit of steam with its Surface hardware. Back in October, the company unveiled the Surface Pro 4 and the Surface Book, and the company is reportedly developing a Surface Phone to replace its Lumia smartphone family. So what else is in the pipeline for the Surface hardware team? Well if a recently revealed patent is any indication, the Surface team could be looking to tackle the desktop market.

But rather than design a traditional desktop machine, Microsoft’s patent details a modular PC design that allows users to easily swap out components or add new functionality when needed. The modular PC includes a large, hinged touch screen display that it attached to base module. The base module would allow users to swap out primary components with ease and can be stacked atop additional modular housings.

surface modular

“These housings may be configured to be ‘swappable’ within the housing to change functionality as desired, such as to update the processing, memory, and/or network resources of the computing device,” write patent authors Young Soo Kim and Tim Escolin. “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.”

surface stackable modules
Stackable modules

The stackable modular components would connect magnetically and allow for unique device combinations based on your particular needs. In addition to base components like processors units and memory, accessories could also be attached including speakers and even augmented reality devices to support products like HoloLens.

We have to keep in mind that Microsoft’s modular PC patent is merely a concept at this point, and there’s no guarantee that the company will follow through with a finished product that is fit for production. However, it’s nice to see that the incredible minds in Redmond are working on some hot hardware that may one day be commonplace in the PC landscape.

Acer Revo Build Stacked
Acer Revo Build

We can’t forget that Acer has tried a similar concept with its Revo Build stackable PC family. The Revo Build consists of a base unit that includes the processor, memory, storage, and external ports (i.e., USB 3.0, HDMI, DisplayPort, etc.). Customers can then add additional functionality using stackable blocks that attach to the base unit with magnetic pogo pins. Currently, there are blocks that add additional storage (up to 8TB), wireless charging (via the 12,500mAh Wireless Power Bank) and the Graphics Block module which supercharges your graphics capabilities.