Microsoft could take on Apple Pencil with stylus and wireless earbud in one

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Microsoft stylus and earpiece
What the...? Microsoft’s stylus and earpiece combination looks decidedly odd.
Photo: Apple/Microsoft/Cult of Mac

Microsoft proposes combining two very different peripherals. It dreamed up a tablet stylus that when not in use wraps around the user’s ear to become a wireless headset.

Is there a point to such a stylus? It’s debatable.

A computerized chimera

The patent application for Flexible carpenter’s stylus with dockable earpiece says:

“A computer peripheral includes a stylus having a capacitive stylus nib and an earpiece dock. An earpiece is removably dockable at the earpiece dock. The earpiece includes a speaker, an earpiece battery, and a wireless radio configured to communicatively couple with a host device. The computer peripheral further includes a charger configured to receive power, and while the earpiece is docked, to use the power to charge the earpiece battery.”

In less stilted language, Microsoft engineers came up with a flexible stylus with a single earbud stuck on one end. When the stylus is placed behind the ear — as people tend to do with pencils — the wearer can use the earbud. If they need to use both the stylus and the earpiece at the same time, they can be separated and the earpiece inserted directly into the ear, as such things are normally worn.

A drawback of traditional wireless earbuds is short battery lives. In this proposed arrangement, the body of the stylus contains a relatively large battery that can constantly recharge the earbud.

Diagrams in the filing seem to suggest Microsoft sees this being used by workers using a tablet with earpiece to access details on building or repairing complicated equipment, not students or office workers listening to music while drawing.

A bit like a toothbrush and curling iron combination

Inventors have long tried to merge two popular devices into one. Sometimes this works, like the clock radio. But not always. It’s not clear that Microsoft’s proposal to meld a stylus with an earbud is really an improvement, so it seems unlikely Apple is mulling sticking half a pair of AirPods onto an Apple Pencil.

Also, remember that just because Microsoft went to the trouble of patenting the idea doesn’t indicate it will ever become a real-world product. Companies regularly patent designs that never make the jump to reality.