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Microsoft’s foldable patent paves way for a durable PC folding screen

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Even though Microsoft may have shelved plans to introduce its Surface Phone, the company is still hard at work in the foldable space. A recently uncovered Microsoft patent filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office revealed that Microsoft wants to make folding screens more durable. The learnings here could pave way for the launch of more foldable devices, including the company’s unannounced Centaurus PC, a device that’s believed to sport a larger form factor than Project Andromeda. Microsoft’s patent will help limit over-bending and calls for a reinforcement structure comprised of “a plurality of unit cells” placed on the rear of the OLED panel to make the display more durable.

Foldable displays, which are formed with layers of plastics, can suffer from damages ranging from cracks, deformation, buckling, and creasing. To prevent such damage, Microsoft’s innovation calls for placing a layer of mesh behind the screen to support the display. By using a flexible mesh material, the screen can still bend and fold, and this reinforced design can also limit the screen from over-bending.

The patent was filed about a year and a half ago at the end of 2017. It’s unclear what Microsoft’s plans are for this patent, but the company is no stranger to hinge design innovations. Microsoft created the dynamic fulcrum hinge when it launched the Surface Book, and this patent could help make future Surface foldables more durable.

Samsung, which launched the first foldable phone in the form of the Galaxy Fold, had to pull the phone from store shelves ahead of the device being made commercially available to consumers because of issues with the display. Microsoft’s patent could potentially allow its future Surface-branded foldables to avoid a similar gaffe.

Although Microsoft has not publicly commented on its plans with foldable devices, it was recently reported that the Surface team showed off prototypes of its foldable screen PC to other employees. With Microsoft showing off the devices internally, a public launch could occur soon, and industry insiders speculate that Microsoft may announce the device this year alongside a new variant of Windows designed for dual-screen devices called Windows Lite or Windows Core OS.

In addition to Microsoft, partner Intel is also bullish on the foldable markets. The company made many references to dual-screen and foldable PCs as emerging designs when it announced its 10th-generation Ice Lake processors in a pre-Computex meeting, and foldables were also referenced when Intel revealed additional details behind its Project Athena endeavors.

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Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
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