Microsoft’s Prototype Surface Keyboard Cover Boasts Clever E-Ink Touchscreen Display

Microsoft is building a slick new keyboard cover for its Surface Pro tablet. The new keyboard prototype has an e-ink strip above the function keys, giving users a second touchscreen for launching apps, writing notes, or even drawing images. The DisplayCover is still a prototype, but as you can see in the video below, Microsoft has already built in a ton of functionality.

DisplayCover 03

Microsoft built the prototype for a Surface Pro 2. It has a resolution of 1280 x 305 pixels, extending the Surface Pro 2’s display by about 8 percent. The idea is that an extra display, even a small one like the DisplayCover, can give you access to features that either wouldn’t appear on the screen, or would take up valuable screen real estate if they did. Microsoft says it chose E-ink to reduce the extra drain on battery life that keyboard and display causes.

The display doubles as the keyboard’s touchpad, which means the keyboard is closer to you than most laptop keyboards are. Whether that’s more comfortable isn’t clear – it looks like the spacebar will be pretty low to the ground, which might be annoying to some. 

One of the most obvious uses for the DisplayCover is handwriting. If you need to sign a document or edit an image with the stylus, there’s no need to detach the Surface from your keyboard and lay it flat; you just write directly on the DisplayCover’s display strip. It can also give you an extra screen for typing a quick email when you don’t want to move the image on the Surface Pro’s screen. The example Microsoft gives for that sort of situation is when you need to type an email while having a video chat.

DisplayCover 01
DisplayCover 02

There’s no word yet from Microsoft on when (or if) the DisplayCover will see the light of day, but given Microsoft’s efforts to portray the Surface Pro as a tablet that can double as a laptop, it seems like a safe bet that we’ll see some form of the DisplayCover hit shelves down the road.