Submit A Tip Alternative Tip Form

Microsoft Wants To Patent Convergence Style Technology

Should Ubuntu be worried?

convergenceCanonical is not the only software company who is interested in the idea of using a single mobile device to power additional computing experiences. 

Microsoft — boo, hiss, etc — has long pursued the idea, starting with Windows XP Tablet Edition, spanning Windows Vista and, more recently, with the multi-device Windows 10 operating system.

But software is only one side of “convergence” — there’s also the hardware that leverages it.

Windows 10 Mobile saw Microsoft introduce its most accomplished implementation of its adaptable OS vision so far with its feature called Continuum.

Continuum lets (select) Windows 10 smartphones (or tablets) pair with a keyboard, mouse and monitor to drive a semi-traditional Windows desktop experience.

Unlike Ubuntu Convergence, which can run any Linux software re-packaged for ‘Snappy’ on virtually any device, Continuum only run applications built on the Universal Windows Platform (though, like Ubuntu’s Snappy Apps, these too can run across desktop, tablet and phone).

Enough exposited bull-cr*p? Grand. On to the point of this post: A new patent filed by Microsoft has gotten a few Ubuntu users worried.

OMG! Ubuntu! reader David Van R. was among the concerned when forwarded us news of the patent: “Based on what I read, would this not then put Ubuntu’s Convergance platform in violation of that patent?”.

This post is tagged ‘Frack Knows‘ because I am not — somewhat thankfully; I imagine it’s tedious profession — an intellectual property expert.

But what I can understand of this specific patent application is nothing of major concern to Ubuntu on the software side.

Patent, Or No Patent

phonepad

A diagram of Microsoft’s PhonePad

First things first: Microsoft’s patent application is yet to be granted, as far as we can ascertain. It was filed back in the summer of last year.

From a layman’s glance the patent is focused on the idea of, to put it bluntly, shoving a Windows Phone inside a tablet-sized touch screen, a high-res monitor — heck, even both at the same time!

This isn’t new; Motorola had a ‘lap dock’ for its Atrix smartphone, the ASUS PadFone extends a phablet into a, er, slightly larger phablet, and years back there was even a tiny UMPC running Windows Vista — ! — that was able to ‘dock’ into a desktop.

Ubuntu (as well as Apple, Google, and other company) has also been very public in demonstrating similar functionality to that described in this patent description (which you can read in full below).

Microsoft even notes some of the ‘other attempts’ in its patent:

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 15.37.07

Though, as I said: I am not a patent expert, Microsoft’s patent seems to focus more on how the hardware enables the ‘convergence’ experience rather than the abstract software technologies that glue it together (hence the use of terms like “apparatus and methods” and “phonepad”, and no mention of the OS, e.g., Windows 10 ;)).

It also gets into detail on the ‘logic’ of how add-on devices can interact and decide which is best suited to a task when in range of a smartphone-style brain — which is perhaps more info

Superficially parts of this patent description could be applied to pretty much any big-name technology effort in the smartphone era, including Ubuntu’s goals for convergence, Apple’s ‘Continuity’ and Intel’s Android/Debian stuff mash-up.

But is Ubuntu likely to be hindered by this? Canonical filed its own patent on convergence back in 2013.

You can read the whole patent over on the WIPO archive, or click the button below to unveil the full spiel (warning: buzzwords).

Read Microsoft's Continuum Patent Description

Example apparatus and methods improve over conventional approaches by using external devices (e.g., tablets) as input/output devices for devices (e.g., phones) with relatively inferior input/output capacities.

A first device (e.g., smart phone) may be configured with a powerful processor, high-end data communications equipment, memory, and a sophisticated operating system and applications.

A second device (e.g., componentized tablet) may be configured with powerful input/output devices including a high resolution display and a touch and hover sensitive input interface.

The second device may, however, be configured with a low power processor or even no processor, and may be configured with minimal memory. Instead of being a general purpose tablet computer, the second device may be componentized to act specifically as an input/output device for smart phones or other mobile devices. The first device may be portable, and as it moves from place to place, it may be able to interact with different second devices.

Example apparatus and methods may establish a relationship between a first device (e.g., smart phone) and one or more second devices (e.g., componentized tablet, componentized monitor). The tablet may be used to receive touch or hover gestures or other inputs and to produce input events, data or control for the smart phone. The monitor may be used to present or display outputs produced by the operating system or applications on the smart phone. In one embodiment, the componentized tablet may be used to receive inputs (e.g., touches, gestures, voice) and may also be used to present outputs (e.g., operating system display, application display, game display).

The componentized devices may operate like a keyboard or mouse or monitor from a desktop system, where the keyboard, mouse, or monitor have single functions, providing data or control signals to a processor located in another device.

H/t to Safriddle!