In a nutshell: While we're spoilt for choice when it comes to mobile computing options these days, the anxiety that arises from a low battery when on the move is very real. You could carry a portable battery pack with you, but Microsoft might have something better in store with the Surface Pro 8: a Type Cover with built-in solar panels.
As reported by Windows Latest, Microsoft first filed a patent with the USPTO for a Surface Pro Type Cover with integrated solar panels back in the second half of 2018, but it was only published on a public platform last week.
The filing shows what looks like a Surface Pro slotted into a "Mobile device cover with integrated solar panel." There are four panels on the back to capture light and power the Surface Pro, and Microsoft states that any artificial sources of light would be sufficient, meaning it'll work both indoors and outdoors. Additionally, the cover could charge the device while it's being used.
The patent adds that more than four solar panels can be integrated into cover, and they could come in any variety, "including monocrystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels, thin-film amorphous silicon solar panels and/or concentrated PV cell solar panels."
Thanks to the hinged design of the Type Cover, it can be placed at the best angle to catch the light while users work.
Microsoft's Surface Pro 7 won the 'Best Productivity' award in our 'Best of Tablets' feature, but there are few changes over the previous-generation model. An optional Type Cover with solar panels could help the Surface Pro 8 shine next to its competitors. But, like all patents, there's no guarantee this one will ever become a real product, though here's hoping.