back to article Microsoft's 'Surface Phone' is the ghost of Courier laughing mockingly at fanbois

The handful of fans anticipating a Microsoft "Surface Phone" should brace themselves for disappointment. Just-published patents filed by Microsoft look back rather than forward: back to Courier, the code name for a booklet-style, hinged dual-display tablet product that Microsoft canned in 2010. The "new" claims, filed in …

  1. Ralph the Wonder Llama


  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too late

    "perhaps better advice for Redmond is sticking with what it launches"

    They should have done that long ago, but for me, most new Microsoft products are now ignored. Microsoft have no direction, dumping everything left and right if it isn't a success right away or match the current days vision.

    Gone are the days of Microsoft forcing their way to success, using what ever amount of money it cost, at least then you could rely on it sticking around and being supported, might not be improved much once they were top dog, but at least it had some development.

    1. Naselus

      Re: Too late

      That's SatNad's strategy of only giving a shit about Windows, Office and Azure at work. Everything else gets one shot and if it isn't immediately successful, it's sidelined til any sold devices are out of support and then quietly taken out behind the stables and shot.

      1. Lysenko

        Re: Too late

        SatNad should move over to TomTom or Garmin. He'd fit in better.

        1. Bob Vistakin

          Re: Too late

          "SatNad should move over to TomTom or Garmin."

          No way! He's doing a fantastic job continuing the great demolition his predecessor, Blamer, was cruelly prevented from seeing through far too soon.

          1. MyffyW Silver badge

            Re: Too late

            If MS had brought the 5-year support lifetime to their phone offering they might have something that disgruntled Android users don't have, locked as they are into upgrading every two to three years to keep support (e.g. updates). They didn't, and they deserved to fail as a result. It will take some very clever (and well executed) tech to tempt me back onto any of their consumer products.

    2. EarthDog

      Re: Too late

      Probably because the project is only given a few quarters to perform. Otherwise kill it and move on. Customers? Well they should move on to the next flavor du jour. Migration path? we'll get back to you on that.

    3. BKF2014

      Re: Too late

      As one of the forward thinking, cutting edge Windows Phone users for 4 1/2 years, I think that I might be finished waiting for the rest of the world to catch the revelation of how truly awesome the WP UI is.

      In fact, I have an S7 in the post right now for my wife. She expressed a growing dissatisfaction with my repeated, "There's not an app for that....".

  3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    So, they've invented the book? Or the hinge? Or both?

    Can't really see anything in the patent that is truly novel. Continuum, the Gemini or Samsung's reportedly foldable displays are novel.

    1. gypsythief

      Re: So, they've invented the book? Or the hinge? Or both?

      No, they've invented the connector. I think...

      from the patent:

      "The connectors can connect the displays to each other and/or to other components via conductors, such as flexible printed circuits that are connected to the connectors."

      Really! How the donkey-dooberries is that possibly patentable?!? The connectors are connected to the connectors? Well, duh! Welcome to Circuitry 101...

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: So, they've invented the book? Or the hinge? Or both?

      Novel ? Of course not. It's Microsoft.

      It's just a ripoff of HP's calculator hinge from 1987.

  4. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    Courier? Looks more Comic Sans to me.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      New font design required

      Hilarious Sans

  5. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge


    .... I might be persuaded to go back to a clamshell, having a 2nd screen that could be the keyboard would be a nice to have,.... but then I'm probably just wishing I'd opted for the Qtek9000 in 2005, instead of the smaller HTC I ended up with..... I've just got some latent buyers regret to exorcise maybe,....

  6. Def Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Scraping the bottom of the barrel today aren't we, Andrew?

    The patent is for a hinge. No mention was given about actual uses.

    It does allow, however, a device with two screens, for example, to be closed flat with either the screens on the inside, or the outside. Or positioned fairly sturdily at any angle in between. So while, yes, it could be used for a folding phone, it could equally be used on any device up to and including tablets, laptops with touch keyboards, etc.

    Presumably Microsoft *do* have some products in mind for this, but let's wait until they're announced, eh?

    1. Paul Shirley

      Just checked the Nintendo DS (released 2010) on the shelf of abandoned toys behind me and despite having 2 screens with a hinge between them I don't think Nintendo will be challenging MS over the hinge, it only opens 180deg. Should still be a years left on the patent if they want to try though ;)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Microsoft Clam.

    I can't see it taking off, most of them will end up in the prawn shop.

    1. Scott Broukell

      "I can't see it taking off" Nor can I, any attempt to do so would surely place far too much stress on those hinges. But I won't get into a flap over it.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    MSFT, that is.

    We had a demo of Samsung DeX and peeps were impressed - shame MSFT never explained Continuum to enterprise buyers.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's from Microsoft so it'll be timely, relevant, functional and beautiful...


  10. Emmanuel Moyana

    Dual screen display belongs to the past and even then it wasn't a big deal. Microsoft should just make a phone thats all. There are still people who dislike Apple and Google. Thats their market.

    1. Updraft102 Silver badge

      "Microsoft should just make a phone thats all. There are still people who dislike Apple and Google. Thats their market."

      I'm one of those who dislike Apple and Google, but then I dislike Microsoft too. Since July 29, 2015,

      I wouldn't want to do anything to encourage Microsoft in their inane quest to bring all of the UI handicaps of the smartphone to the desktop. I'd only consider considering a Windows phone if there was still such a thing as a current desktop Windows that was completely free of mobile/touch/Metro/Modern/UWP stupidity. As long as Microsoft's mobile ambitions continue to taint Windows in its desktop form, Windows mobile will continue to be a non-starter for me, no matter how good it may or may not be.

      Of course, Windows mobile is pretty much dead anyway, so I can only guess why MS continues to push forward with its insistence on the ugly, desktop inappropriate UI of Windows 10. The best guess now seems to be that MS is no longer interested in the general-purpose desktop OS market, so even though their gambit to use the desktop Windows as a vehicle to sell Windows phones failed, there's no benefit in returning to a Windows 7-style desktop UI. If the goal is to kill off Windows, the last thing they want to do is make Windows into a product that people actually want. They seem to be going to great lengths to ensure that it's anything but.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Desktop Win 10 seems less about mobile now, but more about trying to keep us in their walled garden Subscription programmes and built-in apps that clog up the Start menu so that they can thrust their Store "apps" at us at every opportunity, so that we'll join and remain in their ecosystem

  11. IGnatius T Foobar Bronze badge

    Microsoft FAIL

    How many failures is it going to take before Microsoft realizes that absolutely nobody wants Windows Phone? The demand for Windows is on regular computers. Everyone wants Windows to return to the days when it was optimized for real computers with real keyboards and real mice ... you know, the devices that actually run Windows in real life.

    1. Uk_Gadget

      Re: Microsoft FAIL

      Am I the only Windows Phone User Left? Stunning camera, Stunning Display, nearly 3 years old and runs like a dream.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Am I the only Windows Phone User Left?

        Yes, you probably are. As a better man than me once sang: ridicule is nothing to be scared of.

        1. Salestard

          Re: Am I the only Windows Phone User Left?

          My 950 has three months left, then I'm outta here - WP10/WM10 is shonky, to say the least, and very little of it actually works properly. People hub a shadow of it's former self. Music app dead and buried at the end of this month. Twitter, Facebook, Kindle and so on Apps not updated since forever - LinkedIn app abandoned.

          Nokia Drive I miss dearly - it was excellent on my 925, 1020, 820, 900 and 800. The current Maps app works well enough as a maps app, but lacks the fluidity of Nokia's effort (which came about because they'd bought a Sat-Nav firm (Tom-Tom??))

          Funnily enough, dug the 1020 and 820 out of the 'spares cupboard' (read: collecting point for various things with CPUs, usually dead) last weekend - charged them up, and hardware works fine, as well as the embedded stuff like Drive. Everything else seems dead though?

          My overriding thought though - I remember getting the 1020 and regarding it as an absolute monster of a thing at the time. Four years on, it's tiny!

        2. PM from Hell

          Re: Am I the only Windows Phone User Left?

          My window 10 phone is now used purely for web browsing and listening to podcasts / music in bed. It doesn’t matter if it falls out of bed and breaks as it has no residual value. It’s the only handset I have replaced before end of contract. I liked the phone but the number of apps I wanted which were no available got too large.

      2. Gavin Chester

        Re: Microsoft FAIL

        Nope, although mine is now a secondary phone to an iPhone...

      3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Microsoft FAIL

        I'm still using my Lumia 730. Haven't updated to Windows Phone 10 because Andrew O was rude about its bugs when they launched it. I think they got ironed out, but it made changes to the UI, and I'm happy with what I've got.

        I don't really care about apps, which is just as well. The web browser isn't great, but it's a brilliant phone - and the address book is what I need for work - as it allows me to just display the 50-100 contacts I want to be able to quickly scroll through - while keeping the 8,000 rarely used work contacts searchable only.

        It's also much better than Apple at allowing me to have separate email accounts, and keep them separate. But gives me the choice to merge my personal and work inboxes, were I so inclined. I'm not.

        And has a reliable 2 day battery life, with good use.

        If only MS had showed it some love, they might have got somewhere. But they've been consistently inconsistent in mobile since the pretty good for the time Win Mobile 5. Never doing any development until they're overtaken, then being slow, then stopping just when they're getting close to catching up. Then starting again. It's pathetic.

        My next phone will be something else. I don't really like Android or iPhone, but I guess at least you can customise a Droid.

      4. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft FAIL

        Sadly, I bailed out a few months back. It was just that my much loved Winphone was falling further and further behind what I needed. I don't use many (cr)apps but the few I did need were becoming dated or unavailable. And the quality of the camera was poorer than I could get with a new phone at a reasonable price, and so on

        But despite the Google-slaves ridicule of the WinPhone it was a very good phone. (And if they were gathering my data they at least hadn't used it to put adverts everywhere).

        1. Mike Taylor

          Re: Microsoft FAIL

          Sadly I had to bail in the summer too. Had a work iPhone, which I loathed. Got a high end Samsung. Dear god android is clunky compared with wp8.

          1. BKF2014

            Re: Microsoft FAIL

            "Dear god android is clunky compared with wp8."

            Try explaining that to a fanboi. They just look at you like you're a simpleton.

            It's tough being right.

      5. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft FAIL

        I'm still using my Lumia, but I'm afraid I'll get an iPhone SE (I hate large phones) next year - just to stay away from Android and Google's slurping operations. Apple's looks a little more limited, as long as they make absurd money selling devices.

      6. PPK
        Thumb Up

        Re: Am I the only Windows Phone User Left?

        Nope - 950XL here, still going strong. Annoyed at Groove being dumped, Spotify is OK for now. The handful of apps I use are all working fine, HTML5 mobile sites work for everything else - including my bank. So many apps were just a simple wrapper around a website (Expedia anyone?) that I don't know why they bothered.

        Let's wait and see if a Surface Phone ever happens (unlikely but you never know). Wouldn't mind a replacement for my Band 2 as well, a very capable device.

        On the other hand, if I did have to go Android (can't stand Apple kit) this one is giving me Psion 5 flashbacks:

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Microsoft FAIL

        I am a 950 user, the interface it the best i have used well 8.1 was better than 10. But right now, almost on a daily basis i want to smash the damn thing to pieces, slow, especially viewing pictures, the hdr processing takes ages, browsing hanging or not showing pages unless you go to the 'tabs' then it will show or you need to close the other tabs. Pressing the power button not waking it. for me every update has screwed it more, like they are wanting me to smash it, so they dont have to support it anymore.

      8. EddieD

        Re: Microsoft FAIL

        Nope, and I agree with both of what you said. I also like the interface more than any of my experiments with other operating systems.

        Alas, unless I keep my current phone many, many years (instead of just many), I'll probably have to turn android.

      9. BKF2014

        Re: Microsoft FAIL

        No. There are at least three of us for now. I just ordered my wife an S7, so by next week there will be one less.

    2. Gavin Chester

      Re: Microsoft FAIL

      I have a Lumia 1020, I bought it as a second phone mainly for the camera, but then found the OS hangs together and it works really, really well in use. The free included Nokia mapping (Nokia Here) lets you download entire continents on to the phone to use offline and save data costs overseas, the display is crisp and clear, and it feels "right" in your hand, not too heavy, not too plastic-y.

      I know it was the flagship for a while and you expect some these things but I was impressed with it as a device.

      Unfortunately the world lives on IOS and Android so there's less apps (I have all I needed but I'm not a big social media user), and the battery life if you use the great display is lousy (I use it as a sat nav on holiday having a car USB adapter is a must).

      I still use it as a general phone satnav when out of the UK, and the fact its unlocked and 4G means it gets a local sim in, but its starting to show its age and lack of updates are starting to have an effect when modern websites wont display correctly.

      What was probably the final nail, and why I would not have considered a Windows phone again even if MS pulled the plug was, almost like some Android makers, less than 18 months after release (shorter than most mobile contracts) Microsoft announced no more firmware updates and that it cant go to W10 Mobile. Not a huge deal for most mobiles, but if your trying to build brand loyalty its not a great life cycle on what was a flagship phone. Compare that to Apple, when an iPhone usually gets 4-5 years support before they consider it EOL.

  12. Mage Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Oh why?

    Why is the bar to get a patent so low?

    It seems all you need is money.

    What is original, innovative and not obvious to those skilled in the art?

    There is prior art too. Nintendo, Lenovo and others.

    Maybe you could patent a clever non-obvious design of hinge? That would apply to ANYTHING with a lid or hinged from cigarette case, laptop, gameboy, dual screen tablet or whatever.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh why?

      Read the patent. Comprehend the difference to everything you mentioned, come back.

    2. Robert Forsyth

      Re: Oh why?

      If it does an existing thing better, you can (and could) always patent it.

    3. Robert Forsyth

      Re: Oh why?

      However, looking at the drawings on the source link, how is this hinge different to the HP Pavilion x360, I am typing on?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Oh why?

        Or the Lenovo Yoga that a friend showed me last week?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone remember the Rubiks cude? Soon after he (or everyone else who jumped on the bandwagon) came out with some kind of flat puzzle - seem to remember it had the Olympics logo on the one I saw. You could twist each section and it would connect with each other section. I always thought that would be a decent mechanism for a foldup phone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Rubik's magic.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That's the one - Cheers!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We've got the Linux Subsystem for Windows 10 now. Is an Android Subsystem for Windows 10 Mobile completely out of the question?

  15. PhilipN Silver badge

    Mechanical hinge

    Are there any other kinds of hinge?

    I mean, “hinge” necessarily means “mechanical”, yes?

    A non-mechanical hinge would be more patent-worthy, but blowed if I can conceive what that could possibly be. I’ve heard of a butt hinge but guarantee that is NOT what you think it is.

    1. myhandler

      Re: Mechanical hinge

      Well there's the nylon hinge made of a bendy piece of nylon - no moving parts anyway.

      Why dont they make one out of a zip.. that should work. Let me call my patent lawyer.

  16. Stoneshop Silver badge

    A Thinkpad Transnote

    Scaled down a bit. Full-size screen instead of half-screen/half keyboard. And some technological advances added that have happened in between.

  17. handleoclast

    That final photo

    Do I misunderstand what it's showing?

    It appears to be a display on the left, and an input pad on the right, with somebody using a scribbling tool to draw on the input pad in order to make changes to the image on the right.

    Is it just me, or is that a completely fucking insane way of doing it? Scribbling on a touch-sensitive screen I can understand. You can see where to place the tool in order to start a line at a specific place in the picture. What I see in that photo is just plain mad. But, as I said, maybe I'm missing something.

  18. LisaJK

    Back to the future...

    Why is old always bad???

    I'm still waiting for fold or slide out QWERTY keyboards to return on phones and tablets.

    Laptop sales are rising at the expense of tablets. I've got a couple of tablets relegated to internet radios as I am just so much more productive with a real keyboard. We see the odd tantalising glimpse of potential smartphone products including keyboards, but nothing real to date.

    I could type way quicker on my old XDA exec than anything since. OK the SW was crap (WinCE) and the HW was slow, but it did way more than the iphone which came after it.

    Unfortunately I think that a dual screen foldable device is a nice idea, but you can't touch type on a screen. Most info I've found on the web reckons an average of between 50 and 70% speed for screen typing vs physical keyboards, but there doesn't appear to have been many really scientific tests.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    is microsoft still a thing?

    Windows is utterly terrible, Office is in fatal decline. Xbox is just about keeping afloat. Every corporate product has a competitor that out performs them. What tards are keeping MS going? I can't see a single product worth buying out of their portfolio.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: is microsoft still a thing?

      Oh be fair: Azure has an uptime of 100% if you make the sample period small enough, and I believe Vista shipped with a couple of reasonable wallpapers.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward There will be a heavy competition from iPhone and Samsung. Sooner the launch, Microsoft will get benefited

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