The big picture: Microsoft is still trying to do weird things with flexible screens and foldable form factors. A recently unveiled patent describes a novel approach that goes beyond the infamous Surface Duo phone and actually offers back-to-back folding capabilities.
The Surface Duo’s dual-screen approach didn’t work, but Microsoft appears still keen on creating a fully flexible device. A patent published on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) website describes a “translation mechanism for display computing devices” that Microsoft says would provide a better experience compared to flexible, display-based devices already on the market.
Other flexible devices can’t fold the display in the opposite direction “in an open or back-to-back orientation,” Microsoft notes in its report patent applicationas these devices use hinge constructions that would “stretch and apply tension” to the flexible display, eventually damaging it when unfolded.
Microsoft’s approach uses a complex folding mechanism that is designed to “largely” eliminate potentially damaging tensile stresses on the display. A cam-based system is used to adjust the position of the two halves of the device relative to the spine when the device is back-to-back versus when it is normally closed.
Microsoft isn’t the only company trying to break new ground with flexible display technology, although consumers aren’t exactly rushing to replace their traditional single-display smartphones with foldable devices. Samsung, the leader in this space, unveiled a solution similar to the one outlined in the Microsoft patent earlier this year. LG also introduced a 360-degree foldable OLED screen more than a year ago.
Microsoft isn’t doing anything new or revolutionary, and the foldable devices the company has made to date haven’t exactly met with user enthusiasm or interest. At this point, a 360-degree foldable screen could prove to be a bad idea for a company focused primarily on cloud, AI, and unprecedented acquisitions in the gaming industry.
The patent has been published and is available for public inspection, but has not yet been granted by WIPO. Microsoft could also choose not to use the technology in any actual product, a common consequence of granted patents.