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Microsoft proposes smarter laptop battery system

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Microsoft

Microsoft has proposed a slightly different approach to extending laptop and tablet battery life - make the devices themselves much smarter at using a broader range of power options.

It's widely accepted that battery technology hasn't kept pace with processor and screen technology. It's why successive generations of laptops and mobile devices seem to be stuck with the same less-than-satisfactory levels of stamina.

While the biggest tech companies are spending big to discover superior battery technologies, Microsoft has proposed a slightly different approach.

Rather than making the batteries better, why not make the computers better at utilising what we've already got?

Microsoft's proposal, as outlined in a recent blog post, is to come up with a system that uses multiple kinds of existing battery technology, and to use smarter software to determine which ones were used and when.

"We think we can get you the benefits of the different types of batteries that have already been invented, rather than having to keep on waiting for the ultimate battery to be invented," says principal researcher Ranveer Chandra.

The research project has assembled a number of working prototypes that contain multiple battery types, all of which are optimised for different tasks. The operating system will then recognise the task that's being executed, and will apply the most efficient battery for that task.

For example, the type and amount of power needed for writing a Word document is very different to what's needed for editing HD video footage, but modern systems don't make much of a distinction.

Related: Which phone has the best battery life?

Microsoft also applies machine learning to figure out an individual's usage habits. It can then optimised battery usage accordingly.

So, for example, if a user routinely plugs their laptop into the mains at 2:45 and delivers a PowerPoint presentation at 3pm, the system will establish that a quickly charging battery should be utilised at around that time.

Naturally, while Microsoft is currently experimenting with laptops and tablets, it can also see the potential benefits for smartphones and even cars. All in all, it seems like a highly practical solution to a very modern problem.

Take a look at our Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review video:

Dead Words

October 5, 2015, 11:26 am

I wonder how you'd deal with space. How many types of batteries would you have? Would you just split the size you'd normally have and replace it with eighths? It seems like the individual batteries would run out of juice way faster depending on what you do most often (for example if you mostly watch Netflix and browse the web) and then you'd be left with batteries optimized for other things. If you take up more space in a device well that's just trying to "solve" the problem a different way.
I wonder how it works. I'll be interested to read more at a later date.

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