Microsoft Steals Apple’s MagSafe Ideas For The Surface, Is A Nasty Showdown Brewing?

Microsoft Steals Apple’s MagSafe Ideas For The Surface, Is A Nasty Showdown Brewing?

See that five-pin connector on the side of Microsoft’s Surface? That’s pretty much a MagSafe.

Ever since it first debuted in January 2006, Apple has jealously guarded its MagSafe technology from being poached by the competition. Patented up the wazoo, Apple doesn’t allow knock-offs and goes after companies that try to rip it off, even going so far as to sue companies that make MagSafe compatible accessories that use official recycled MagSafe connectors.

It’s through being so aggressive about its MagSafe IP that, to this day, none of the competition has anything like it. That’s about to change, though: the new Microsoft Surface tablet has a MagSafe-like connector. Prepare for a legal showdown.

Just last week, Microsoft moved to patent for a five-pin magnetic power cable that looked startlingly familiar to Apple’s own five-pin MagSafe connector.

There was just one big difference: while Apple’s MagSafe only does power, Microsoft’s connector does power and data, allowing you to sync-and-charge your device through the same port, like a magnetic Apple dock connector.

But Microsoft’s patent isn’t just a cover-your-ass move to lay stake to a purely whimsical technology years away from market. When they debuted the Microsoft Surface, that MagSafe-like data/power connector was right there on the device.

Could things get ugly between Microsoft and Apple? We’re not patent experts, but we’d say it’s likely. Apple applied for a patent on a MagSafe connector for iPhone and iPad that could also be used for syncing using “coded magnets” back in January, pre-dating Microsoft’s application by six months.

Granted, the patent hasn’t by granted by the USPTO yet, but it’s ostensibly the same technology Microsoft is talking about: a combination charger/sync cable for a tablet that connects to the device using magnets. The only difference is in the number of pins.

Such a legal battle isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, but if Apple is granted their patent before Microsoft, watch out.

  • aardman

    Deleted by poster. Gibberish.

  • Lane Jasper

    HMMMM…this might suck for Microsoft, that’s a clear, blatent rip off BUT I’m buying one when possible! This Surface is going to ROCK and an i5 CPU? Win 8 etc. etc. this blows away any iPad imo…and I have a “3” this is a serious contender especially for the business-minded consumer.

  • James Winstanley

    I’ve said one thing that PC laptops should have is an equivalent to the magsafe connector that all Apple laptops have. So I really don’t have a problem with MS developing their own. Better to have a power connector that won’t drag your laptop down or having to replace your power supply (that’s expensive) because the adaptor got twisted or broken. I like my magsafe power supply. Some things should be shared by both companies, if for nothing more than common sense sake.

    Seriously, if you have kids or pets, how many times have they pulled out your power supply?

  • Joe Nicholas

    Apple shouldn’t even bother saying a word on this. Microsoft may be purposely doing a Samsung to get their product noticed – a trick Samsung employed successfully for their brand awareness campaign.

  • Joe Nicholas

    Apple shouldn’t even bother saying a word on this. Microsoft may be purposely doing a Samsung to get their product noticed – a trick Samsung employed successfully for their brand awareness campaign.

  • mped

    I’m all for companies making sure they protect their intellectual rights and products but I’m not sue I agree with this one. ‘Magsafe’ would be better for everyone and if only it could be adopted for all the devices we had to plug in. Better if there was a standard rather than a war.

  • iSilver

    you don’t sue microsoft
    seriously, that will end badly for apple

    • VelvetMark

      Really?, as of 2012 Apple has a bigger market cap than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Facebook COMBINED.

  • James_Ala1

    Apple will go after MS, they have the patent, they have the six month lead. It would be a good way for Apple to kill the Surface in crib. I don’t see Tim Cook and crew deviating from the marker laid down by Steve Jobs on intellectual theft. Apple has a long corporate memory of how MS screwed them with Windows, and they are not going any corporation do that to them again. Just look at the hurting they are putting on Google for Android.

  • Isaac

    I find it ironic that this article is so indignant in it’s accusation that Microsoft “stole” Apple’s Magsafe idea for two reasons. Firstly because the principle behind Magsafe (a magnetically attached power cable) was around way before the Magsafe itself, in kitchen appliances like crock pots found in many parts of Asia. This means that Apple appropriated the idea in the first place, so it’s not really their idea. The second reason I find this article ironic is because another article on this site ( advocates Apple doing exactly what they say Microsoft has done, which is to include a keyboard in the next iPad smart cover, with minor differences from the Microsoft Surface Touch Cover.

  • pianoman

    How did Apple manage to get a patent on that connector to begin with? It is a blatant ripoff of of the power plugs used on deep fryers, I have one that is over 10 years old. I guess if someone steals an idea, stamps “APPLE” on it, that makes it original.

  • jabberjibbers

    The writer here is an IDIOT. The magnetic plugs has been around in Asia since the early 80’s. Used on Asian water kettles to prevent burns and injuries from tripping on the cord.

    Apple is a POS. Innovative? More like paranoid idiots who patent things that were around way before Apple was even a “good electronic company”.

    The iPhone 4 was a blatant copy of the LG Prada phone. Google it.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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