The patent, actually filed last September, but only recently made public, describes “remote displays” (think tablet) with minimal storage and processors and no batteries.
All of that, as the site GeekWire reports, would be delivered wirelessly by a nearby base station.
That base station would also receive user input (for example, detecting a gesture or receiving voice commands from across the room) and handle the behind-the-scenes processing (sending a signal to the display to turn the page, for example).
The filing, which lists Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and VP Greg Hart as co-inventors, says the remote displays will be able to operate “for substantially longer periods and may not need to be recharged,” i.e. no need for power chords.
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The filing gives an example of a university having multiple primary stations located across campus.
“The primary stations located throughout campus basically establish a wireless power and data network, such that a student, using their portable display, can access data anywhere on campus. At the same time, the portable display constantly receives power from the network of primary stations while the student is on campus.”
The idea of a “dumb” terminal isn’t new; in the early days of computing, mainframe users accessed the big computer via terminals that had virtually no standalone capabilities.
The Bezos/Hart filing is focused specifically on the remote or wireless display powered by a base station.
“We’ve seen wireless terminals connected to a hub for a long time, but a smart hub connected to dumb slates -- I haven’t seen that,” said analyst Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.
“That’s a concept that could have legs,” he added. “What we’ve discovered in our research is that in the home, oftentimes consumers just want to have a tablet connected to the Internet, they don’t care about memory and local storage, they want to surf the Web and access Web services.”
Bajarin also said stripping out the additional processing and storage components of a traditional tablet would allow a company like Amazon, already a low-cost tablet leader, to sell these devices for really cheap.