Microsoft Files Patent For Wireless Device Charger

On Feb. 18, Microsoft researchers in Beijing, China filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that describes a device with two mat-like surfaces, one that charges mobile devices and the other that's equipped with an OLED screen for displaying weather conditions, sports scores, news headlines.

In addition to being equipped with wired and wireless connectivity, the device can also use an accelerometer or alternative orientation tracking mechanism to determine which surface of the charging device is facing upward at a given time, according to the patent filing.

Wireless charging mats use a technology known as inductive charging, which electromagnetically transfers power from the charging pad to mobile devices. It's found in products currently on the market from Powermat, Duracell myGrid and PureEnergy Solutions' WildCharger Pad. All three of companies' booths at CES 2010 were mobbed with onlookers, and it's not hard to understand why given the exploding popularity of mobile devices and media players.

Although Microsoft's entry to new markets has sometimes resulted in the extinguishing of smaller competitors, Greg Wolff, vice president of product marketing for PureEnergy Solutions, says Microsoft's interest shows the technology is on the cusp of becoming ubiquitous.

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"We think it's fantastic that Microsoft sees the value of wire-free charging. Their entry into this space further validates the need for convenient powering and charging solutions in the marketplace," Wolff said in an email.

Interestingly, it appears that the technology outlined in last week's patent has already found its way into a prototype product. According to Engadget, Microsoft Research Asia in March 2009 launched a prototype called uPad which wireless charges a Wireless Laser Mouse 7000.

While it's dangerous to draw conclusions from patent filings, Microsoft's interest in inductive charging technology can be interpreted as a sign that despite its struggles, the company still anticipates playing a central role in shaping the mobile device market.