Microsoft are attempting to patent a so-called Smart Interface System whereby a smartphone could be docked and used as a basic PC with full-size peripherals. The application, titled "Smart interface system for mobile communication devices", describes an intelligent cradle that acts as an interface between the mobile device and the peripherals; it's this cradle that sets the Microsoft idea apart from previous, ostensibly similar inventions.
While the idea of using a smartphone - which already contain more processing power, storage and multimedia functionality than some netbooks and certainly early desktop PCs - as a docked central processing device is not new, Microsoft's intelligent cradle system is. The cradle would have its own CPU, memory and embedded OS, responsible for the peripherals' drivers and translating the signals from phone to external hardware (and vice-versa). An example would be a video stream, downloaded by the smartphone and then translated by the cradle into commands that a display or connected projector can handle.
In that way, the smartphone could be used with hundreds of peripherals unforeseen when it itself was designed; Microsoft's list encompasses everything from a range of human interface devices (mouse, keyboard, touchscreen, etc.) through image processing (camera, scanner, etc.), storage (hard-drive, optical drive) to set-top boxes and home security sensors. At its most basic it could replace your netbook for web-browsing; at its most complex it could be the hub of your connected home.
Of course, a patent application isn't the same as a shipping product, so there's no telling a) whether the patent office will grant it, and b) whether Microsoft would ever act on it anyway. Still, given the performance of mobile devices today - see NVIDIA's CEO's comments for evidence of that - it seems almost wasteful to lock it up in smartphones and MIDs.
[via Unwired View]