The next big feature coming to Microsoft's Surface Pro devices could be a built-in solar panel.
No, we're not making this up. A patent filed by Microsoft in 2018 (via Windows Latest) describes how solar panels could be mounted to the Surface Pro's kickstand to extend battery life.
The patent references carrying cases that charge devices with solar energy but notes there is no such solution for when a laptop or tablet is in use. In the patent, Microsoft theorizes the use of solar panels on a Surface Pro, and maps out different ways it could be implemented.
One photo shows a Surface Pro with an attached keyboard that is being charged by four solar panels mounted to the back of its kickstand. Another method described in the patent would charge the Surface device directly.
You wouldn't even need direct sunlight, as the solar panels appear to work with artificial lights. Better yet, the kickstand can be rotated so the panels aim directly at the source of light.
Microsoft wouldn't be the first to use solar energy to charge a keyboard. Logitech's long-running K750 is a wireless solar keyboard that charges itself when there is light and stays powered for three months in total darkness.
Still, you shouldn't get too excited about the idea of never having to charge your Surface Pro. We see all sorts of strange patents filed by big tech companies and few of them see the light of day. Putting solar panels on a mass-production device is among the more audacious ideas we've heard of, so we wouldn't bet on a solar-powered Surface arriving anytime soon.
Microsoft would need to invest a lot of R&D to make solar a viable solution for increasing the battery life of a tablet or laptop. Along with added cost, solar panels could compromise the device's weight and appearance.
We're hoping for some major changes to the next Surface device after the Surface Pro 7 failed to break new ground. We won't be saying the same thing later this year if Microsoft can somehow find a way to add solar tech to the Surface Pro 8.