A new Surface Pro could arrive later this year, and Microsoft may give its detachable tablet design a big makeover. Part of that makeover involves making USB-C a native feature for the first time on the Surface Pro line, if a patent filing uncovered by Windows United proves accurate.
Though other PC manufacturers have embraced the USB-C connector — and even the faster Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C in some cases — Microsoft had been reluctant to adopt the technology, opting for legacy connectors to maintain compatibility with other peripherals. To date, the Surface Pro line includes a magnetic Surface Connector for charging, a USB-A port, and a Mini DisplayPort. On the image in the patent application, you’ll find a USB-C port alongside the USB-A and Mini DisplayPort.
With the potential inclusion of USB-C as detailed by the illustration in the patent filing, it’s unclear what the fate of Microsoft’s magnetic Surface Connect port will be. The idea for a magnetic charging port was popularized by Apple initially on older generations of MacBook, but the company dropped its magnetic charging cable in its transition to USB-C. Unlike older USB-A ports, USB-C can serve as an input port to transfer data, can be used to output video, and also deliver power. In theory, Microsoft could rely on USB-C here as a charging port when it’s not being used for video output or data transfer.
Though USB-C does not offer the convenience and safety of unlatching should someone trip over the charging cable, it could make the Surface Pro 7 more future-proof. Additionally, if Microsoft implemented the faster Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C protocol, it could make the Surface Pro 7 a more appealing device to gamers, as Thunderbolt 3 would allow users to use discrete desktop graphics with a connected eGPU.
A previous Microsoft patent filing suggested that the company was exploring options to bring magnetic charging to the USB-C port, but it’s unclear at this time if such a solution would be implemented for the Surface Pro 7. Companies often explore ideas and patent them, but few patented ideas actually get implemented in a final commercial product. Microsoft had also previously explored ways to make the USB-C port even slimmer.