Google’s working on modular smartphones. Acer has a modular mini-desktop, and Lenovo has a modular set of PC accessories. Now it looks like Microsoft may be getting in on the action.

As noted by VentureBeat, Microsoft has applied for a patent on a modular computing device that’s basically an all-in-one desktop PC that would let users add functionality by stacking hardware modules on top of one another.

ms module_03

The modules would be swappable, possibly letting you change processors, graphics, memory, or storage without opening up a PC case. Just swap out one module for another.

While most of the drawings in the patent application look at desktop-style computers, “other examples are also contemplated,” including mobile or television applications. A single module could be used in each of these environments, displaying a mobile or TV-friendly user interface when used with one of those devices.

It’s worth noting that just because Microsoft has applied for a patent does not mean that the company plans to release a modular computer of this type. We see patent applications for products that never see the light of day all the time.

But given Microsoft’s recent hardware efforts, which include tablets that you can use as notebooks and phones that you can use as desktop-style computers, it wouldn’t be shocking if the company eventually decided to expand into the modular desktop PC space.

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