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This Microsoft concept puts an e-ink Start menu on a Surface keyboard

This Microsoft concept puts an e-ink Start menu on a Surface keyboard

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Microsoft is experimenting with a new Surface keyboard concept. While the software giant has hinted at Surface blades accessories in the past, this new concept comes directly from Microsoft's applied sciences group that is responsible for the current Surface display and keyboards. Dubbed "DisplayCover," the keyboard combines physical keys with a thin multi-touch display and e-ink.

Send and receive email from the second display

DisplayCover is really designed to extend screen real estate on smaller laptop and tablet devices like the Surface. Microsoft provides a number of examples for having a multi-touch display above the keyboard, and a particularly compelling one is having Photoshop tools appear contextually to make it quicker to switch while you're using a stylus. Other uses include the ability to display the Start menu on your keyboard to switch between apps quickly, or even the ability to run concurrent apps on the mini touchscreen to send and receive email while another fullscreen app is running on the main display.

Because the DisplayCover uses e-ink for its 1280 x 305 display, the impact on battery life is reduced and you can even write on the display with a stylus for handwriting recognition. While many high-end keyboards include adaptive toolbar functionality, this appears to be a unique way of bringing the same technology to laptops or tablets. Microsoft is just testing this as a concept for now, so it's unlikely we'll see this emerge as part of the company's Surface Pro 4 tablet.