updated 10:45 am EST, Thu January 29, 2009
MS Smart Dock Patent
Microsoft has submitted a US patent filing this week that could lead to smartphones serving as full computers. The application for a "smart interface system" proposes a dock that would support display output, Ethernet or wireless networking, and a USB hub for peripherals like keyboards or external hard drives. Rather than depend on the phone to support all the features, however, the dock would include a processor and embedded software that abstracts support and would offload some of the processing work from the phone.
The design would not only extend the immediate functionality of smartphones for most users but would be especially useful in the developing world, Microsoft explains. Taking its roots in the company's Fone+ project, the dock would let the poor use smartphones as their computers rather than forcing them to carry both a separate cellphone and a PC; the company has suggested using a TV in place of a typical monitor and of building in WiMAX for long-range broadband in rural areas that can't justify wired connections.
The patent doesn't hint whether the dock is evidence of a production model or a concept to be used later, though the relatively complete design and specific uses allude to long-term plans for the dock to support Windows Mobile hardware.
Few current docks, including those for the iPhone and most existing devices, support more than wired sync and power; Apple's allows audio and video out. [via Unwired View]