Microsoft’s dual-screen Surface Neo (opens in new tab) and Surface Duo (opens in new tab) devices are set to arrive in fall 2020, but the engineers at Redmond might be planning to follow them up with a triple-display device.
That’s the impression we get from the latest patent filing (opens in new tab) by Microsoft (via Windows Latest (opens in new tab)), which shows a foldable device that looks a lot like the Surface Duo but with a third mini display added into the mix. This slender screen sits on the hinge that separates the two normal screens on either side.
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According to the patent, Microsoft reckons such a display could be used as a way to bridge the gap between the two screens and present them as one continuous screen when the device is fully open.
Another function for the mini screen would be to display notifications, user interface elements, bookmarks and other controls, not unlike the Touch Bar found on MacBook Pro (opens in new tab) laptops.
The gap caused by the hinge that connects the two displays on the Surface Neo and Surface Duo is pretty slim as it is. But the addition of a screen on top of the hinge would remove it completely, yet at the same time wouldn’t be likely to suffer warping and wear that can blight the foldable displays in devices like the Samsung Galaxy Fold (opens in new tab).
However, to do this Microsoft would need to employ some smart engineering. Not only would it take a good bit of creativity to fit a mini display on top of a hinge, but Microsoft would need to make sure the device has enough processing power onboard.
And Microsoft would also need the right software smarts to enable the screen to adjust dynamically from being a notification bar into neatly filling in the missing space between the two main displays.
Microsoft is already working on a custom version of Windows 10, called Windows 10X (opens in new tab), which retools the company’s operating system to work specifically with foldable dual-screen devices. With the Surface Duo, Microsoft is working on a heavily customised version of Android to bring a Windows-esque experience to Google’s mobile OS. So it looks like Microsoft is already laying the foundations for tackling tricky multiple-screen challenges.
And Microsoft has already shown off its skill in making well-designed hardware such as the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (opens in new tab) and the upcoming Xbox Series X (opens in new tab), which pack a lot of power into relatively small packages. As such, Microsoft is in a good position to get this patent off the ideas board and into reality, though we don’t expect to see such a device until at least 2021.