Microsoft’s modular PC patent is as clever as it is unrealistic

With easily replaceable hardware components, users may never need to buy a new PC. We’ve heard this one before.

Microsoft has dreamed up a new kind of desktop PC, in which swapping out components doesn’t require technical know-how or comfort around circuit boards.

The modular PC concept appeared in a Microsoft patent application, filed last July and published last week, VentureBeat reports. The patent calls for a stack of hardware modules that sit underneath the display, which itself is also replaceable.

When you want a new processor, battery, graphics card, or speakers, for instance, you just swap out the old module and add a new one to the stack. The modules could also add new capabilities to a PC over time, including gesture recognition or holographic projection. Each module would have its own housing, with magnetic connectors for easy replacement.

While the idea is clever, other companies have pursued similar visions before, and haven’t gotten very far. In 2014, Razer introduced a modular PC concept codenamed Project Christine, but it never left the concept stage. A newer effort called the Micro Lego Computer has yet to launch after a mid-2015 announcement. Meanwhile, Acer has started selling the core unit of its Revo Build stackable PC, but none of the promised additional components.

The problem with a fully-modular PC system is that it’s impractical without standardized industry support. Unless a wide range of component makers pledge long-term commitments to a modular system, anyone who buys in would likely pay higher prices for a limited range of products, and would have less control over the hardware than they would by building a PC in the usual way.

Microsoft’s interest in the concept is somewhat encouraging, as the company is powerful enough to hold sway over PC vendors and component makers. If Microsoft were to ensure support for swappable modules in Windows, and maybe offer some of its own, other hardware vendors might be compelled to get on board.

But as with any patent filing, the mere existence of Microsoft’s modular PC patent doesn’t mean a real product is in the making. And it doesn’t even begin to solve the significant problems facing the modular PC concept as a whole.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftPCpatentRazerdesktop PC

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Skywatcher Dobsonian 8″ Collapsible Telescope

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Whodunnit™ Duo-Scope MFL-007 Microscope Kit

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Logitech Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?