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Microsoft Wants To Turn Smartphones into Mice

According to a Microsoft (MSFT) patent application from August 2008, made public today, the company sees touch-screen cell phones as potential graphics tablets for computers. That raises the question of how mobile devices will work in computing: as adjuncts to desktops and laptops or as replacements.

For those who might not have used them, graphics tablets are touch-sensitive devices, like the touch pads on many laptops. They let you more easily draw and paint, often with a stylus, than is possible using a mouse.

Patent application number 20100045611 is titled, Touch Screen Mobile Device as Graphics Tablet Input:

A graphics tablet application executing at the mobile device may replace a standard display of the mobile device with a simulated surface of a graphics tablet. A user may interact with the graphics tablet application by drawing on the touch screen of the mobile device. As the user draws across the touch screen of the mobile device, the graphics tablet application samples the position of the user input at a predetermined rate and transmits an indication of this position information, such as x, y position information or a recognized symbol, to the user computer where the input can be further processed. Because the mobile device may be connected to a user computer for any number of reasons, such as to copy data to or from the mobile device, charge the mobile device, or upgrade the firmware of the mobile device, a graphics tablet application may also be responsible for configuring the mobile device to be recognized as a graphics tablet input device or some other pointing device when connected to the user computer.
It makes sense and, frankly, I've wondered in the past why no one had yet done this. If you already have the phone, it beats buying a small graphics tablet in addition. However, it raises the question of where computing will go. This presumes that mobile devices will continue to sync with a computer. However, what happens when cloud computing comes more into play and provides the greater storage and processing abilities that the desktop or laptop had? Do mobile devices have an independent existence and does connecting them to another computer become an antique practice? Even if so, though, that is still some time off. If Microsoft could get a broadly stated patent on using a phone or other mobile device (like a tablet or pad) this way, it might help the company lock up a way to use mobile devices. That could prove a competitive advantage.

Tablet image courtesy user hisks, site standard license.

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