Microsoft patent shows off thinner Surface Type Cover

Surface Pro 6
Surface Pro 6 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

A thinner Surface Type Cover could be in the cards, according to a new patent filed by Microsoft. The patent, first picked up by Windows United (via The Verge), describes a method by which Microsoft could make Surface keyboards thinner by cutting or etching a trackpad into the circuit board so it is movable in relation to portions of the board around it.

From the description:

Techniques for a circuit board for an input device are described. In at least some embodiments, an input device is integrated with a circuit board of a device. For example, a touch interaction area of ​​the input device is formed by cutting and / or etching a portion of the circuit board such that the touch interaction area is movable with respect to adjacent portions of the circuit board. In one or more embodiments, an input device includes a switch such that movement of the touch interaction region actuates the switch to generate a click-enter event.

The patent surfaces at a time when its rumored Microsoft is working on a complete redesign for the next Surface Pro. In June, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reported that a "heavily redesigned" Surface Pro is being targeted for a 2019 release. If this patent becomes reality, a thinner Type Cover could be a part of that revamp.

Currently, Microsoft is hot off of the launch of the Surface Pro 6, which keeps the same design as last year's Surface Pro, but comes with a new matte black finish and upgraded processors.

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Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • How bad would the key travel be with a thinner cover?
  • Since the keyboard cover doesn't lay flat on the desk, why not make a mechanism that lets the keys depress into the void below? Maybe it could be done well :)
  • But why? I want key travel, not thinness. If a keyboard is too thin, it no longer works as a keyboard. Just look at the new MacBook keyboards, not a single person says they're great. The highest praise is "you learn to live with it," that isn't the bar that Microsoft should be going for.
  • Totally agree...nobody is complaining how thick the type cover is...yet another MS wrong move!
  • As long as I have the option of using/buying an "older"-style Type Cover. What makes the current version great is the key travel - it's high, not low. Low key travel doesn't help me at all.
  • A thinner keyboard its controversial. The Verge did a recent video review today on rhe chrome tablet. It had a thin and clumsy origami keyboard. In flex the trackpad autoclicked. Microsoft also made the touch cover briefly with the Surface Pro first and second gen devices. They were finger than the type cover. Weren't a good experience. I don't see a thinner bring any innovative value to the table, even as a hero device. I would like to see the return of the power cover though. Worth ever hyped up infatuations over thinness, the demand for longevity, without liss of performance will grow. Thinness is not the solution. Id rather then invest on fixing a half baked windows 10. Three years and counting.
  • Financially they have more than enough to invest and as far as allocating investments, they aren't even the same team
  • I believe it's more about simplifying the construction of the track pad, thus making it cheaper to produce, and also saving weight. I doubt they will make the entire type cover thinner as this would indeed mean less key travel, and it would also compromise its rigidity making it flex while typing.
  • Gotta agree with all of that. You'll lose a lot of what makes the type cover work in the quest for thin, for the sake of thin. I think MS could do well by creating a non-type cover. A cover that mounts like the type cover but just provides protection. An iPad smart cover if you will. Maybe with an integral sleeve for the pen that is secure. There are good BT travel keyboards around, or throwing a decent keyboard in checked luggage to be used at the hotel room, might be a setup that some would go for.
  • Affecting key travel... How thick is a type cover? 0.1 inch?
    I've never tear it down, look inside the KB but... assuming key + mechanism takes up 0.05 and trackpad takes 0.07.
    So by making trackpad thinner, you can make the new type cover thinner and still keep the key travel distance?
  • Is the E. Coli scare over yet? I miss my romaine.
  • Thinner isn't necessarily bad here. If they could find a nice middle ground between the type cover and touch cover while still maintaining all the things that people love about it, they might have a winner. Besides, thinner could also include a new construction method in addition to the track pad idea. It may only be marginally thinner that will make a difference in the way it feels, when the Surface Pro is carried in hand or used in tablet mode.
  • MS needs to make a secondary touch display to fit in the keyboard connector. This would be an interesting accessory.
  • NO PLEASE NO! No compromises just for the sake of being THIN! No one is complaining that the type cover is thick right now. Its almost perfect at the moment!
  • I miss my Touch Keyboard! 😩