In the early 2000’s, when one-handed use of gadgets was still important, Sony devices were particularly sought after due to their popular jog dials, which let users quickly and easily access a wide number of features with only one thumb.
It seems everything old is new again, as Microsoft has applied for a patent to bring the technology to their Surface tablets and even the Surface Pen.
The so-called Ring Button would be programmable and would enable a wide variety of features including powering the device on or off, selecting or highlighting text, deleting text, copying or pasting content.
The feature would presumably integrate with Microsoft’s Surface Dial (AKA RadialController) API, letting other OEMs bring the feature cheaply to tablets and phones.
Microsoft notes when the Ring Button is in a stylus it may have different functions when close to the screen (then activating copy and paste for example) than when further way, when it may switch your PC on and off and that the button may have haptics built-in to give a click response when pressed.
Microsoft has recently been experimenting a lot with new user input technologies, and with the ability to take advantage of the Surface Dial API it seems likely we will see at least one version of this idea being released.
The full patent can be seen here.