Even before the launch of Microsoft’s Surface Windows 8 Pro, we knew battery life would be its Achilles heel. Now, Microsoft is hinting that it may have a fix in the works.
Panos Panay, Microsoft’s corporate vice president working on Surface, recently hosted a question and answer session on Reddit about the new product. One user asked if Microsoft had any plans for an external battery or a keyboard cover with its own battery built-in.
“That would require extending the design of the accessory spine to include some way to transfer higher current between the peripheral and the main battery,” Panay wrote in response. “Which we did…”
Panay was likely referring to new connector plates on the bottom of the Surface Pro, which are not found on the Surface Windows RT. It’s possible that a thicker Touch Cover or Type Cover could stash an extra battery, extending the life of the device beyond a measly five hours .
Speaking to The Verge, a Microsoft representative dropped another hint at how those connectors would come into play: “At launch we talked about the ‘accessory spine’ and hinted at future peripherals that can click in and do more,” the representative said. “Those connectors look like can carry more current than the pogo pins, don’t they?”
The question is, can Microsoft build a new keyboard cover with its own battery that doesn’t compromise the design of the Surface itself? The existing Type Cover–the one with mechanical keys–is already a bit clunky as a screen protector. Make it thicker, and the design hews closer to the litany of existing clamshell-like hybrids, such as theSamsung ATIV Smart PC and the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix. The unique appeal of the Surface, as a tablet whose keyboard cover easily folds out of the way, would start to diminish.
So as interesting as a battery-equipped Surface cover may be, I’m even more encouraged by the possibility of altogether new Surface models. In the same Reddit session, Panay subtly hinted at more to come. (A user had asked about new models with additional features, and Panay said those were “great ideas, but we aren’t talking about future product designs.”)
As PCWorld Editor Jon Phillips wrote, the Surface Pro is “so close” to being the perfect marriage of a tablet and a PC. A new cover with a battery would be a band-aid measure, but entirely new hardware has a better chance to nail the concept.
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Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.