Microsoft’s new USB-C port could enable even slimmer Surface products

Microsoft had been hard at work prepping for the transition to USB-C, and the fruits of that labor could soon appear in future Surface hardware. Microsoft had filed two separate USB-C patents — one for the USB-C housing and a second patent for the cabling — with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) dating back to April and May 2017.

The housing assembly, according to Microsoft’s patent filing, “may be directly attached to the chassis of the computing device and may secure a USB-C plug.” The design encompasses curved side walls and a tongue assembly with a mid-plate. And by allowing the housing to be directly attached to the chassis of a device without needing top or bottom wall plates, the design could allow Microsoft to save space to make thinner devices.

microsoft thin usb c housing patent port uspto

Microsoft claims that the housing could either be bolted to the chassis or attached via an adhesive compound, like glue or epoxy. Another option is to mold the housing with the chassis, which would add extra strength to the structure to prevent accidental damage to the USB-C port if, for example, the USB-C cable was pulled out or twisted out at an angle.

“It may be advantageous to integrally attach and/or form the housing with the chassis to simplify manufacturing costs,” Microsoft said in its filing. “Being integrally attached also ensures a firm connection between the housing and chassis for transferring torques to the chassis.”

Microsoft’s rumored foldable computing device code-named Andromeda, which will likely be part of the growing Surface family, could benefit from this new port design. Given the more compact device of this device and the requirements needed for a foldable screen, a slim USB-C enclosure assembly would make sense to keep Andromeda as thin as possible for mobility. Andromeda could launch as early as late this year.

The second patent is for a USB-C connector, which includes the USB-C tip and the cable assembly. That patent appears to be straightforward.

Microsoft has already adopted USB-C on several of its products. The port appeared first on Microsoft’s Lumia 950 and 950XL smartphones, and the Surface Book 2 most recently became the first device in Microsoft’s Surface family to ship with USB-C built in. In addition to the Surface Book line, Microsoft also has a Surface Pro tablet, the Surface Laptop, and the Surface Studio desktop. These products have not made the transition to USB-C yet, but Microsoft is rumored to be working on hardware refreshes that will ad the port to other products in the Surface family. Microsoft has long been rumored to be working on a Surface Pro 6 refresh with a USB-C port, and the company’s patent filing depicts a tablet with the port in one illustration. Microsoft is also rumored to be working on a low-cost Surface Tablet.

A prior patent suggests that Microsoft may even replace its beloved magnetic Surface Connector port with a magnetic USB-C port with a breakaway cable that would make the computer safer to use in the event someone trips over the cord.

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