Microsoft could dramatically overhaul the stylus used on its Surface Book and Surface Pro lines of tablets. A new patent application was revealed on Patently Mobile on Sunday that shows company research into a new charging and docking method for the Surface Pen.
The patent describes a magnetic docking solution that holds the pen in place during charging. It doesn't, however, refer to the dock as a separate device, and the diagrams suggest it would be built into Surface hardware. A magnetic charger would mean a pen ready to go whenever the user switches on the machine.
The charging system could solve one of the biggest irritations about the current stylus. Right now, the Surface Pen uses AAAA batteries, which can be somewhat difficult to find. However, the product website claims the batteries can last up to 18 months, thanks to built-in accelerometers detecting when the pen is not in use and shutting down operations.
Microsoft also notes that its invention would stop the pen from getting lost. The current Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 can hold the pen in place with magnets, but the lack of ridges mean it can easily get knocked off. The application would solve this, with physical cut-outs in which to place the pen more securely.
It would be a win over Apple's iPad Pro, which features no similar docking solution on the tablet's body. Instead, users are expected to find their own place to store the $99 Apple Pencil. The stylus does beat out the current $59 Surface Pen, however, with a built-in charging plug.
Microsoft filed its patent application back in June 2014, and it is unclear when, if ever, the invention would be included on a production model Surface. Nonetheless, the application shows Microsoft is exploring new and interesting features for its line of tablets.