Microsoft has so far resisted attempts to move to USB-C on their Surface tablets, possible due to the real safety and durability advantages of the magnetic Surface connector and possible also the additional revenue generated by having proprietary accessories.
There is however significant pressure to support the increasingly prevalent standard, which may explain Microsoft’s latest patent, deceptively named MAGNETICALLY ACTIVATED LATCH MECHANISM.
The invention uses magnets on either end of the cable and plug (yellow in the image above and below), but cleverly still supports regular USB-C cables.
The invention would by default have a locking latch (456) in the cable which would keep a regular USB-C cable in place, but when a special magnetic USB-C port is brought closer it would pull the magnets (440) into the springs (438) which would allow the locking latch (456) to disengage, resulting in the cable only being held in place using the magnetic force between magnets 440 and 430.
In this way, the special magnetic cable would, like current Surface connectors or Apple’s old Magsafe cable, connect without any insertion force and be detachable without damaging the connector or pulling your tablet of a table if you trip over the cable. On the other hand a regular USB-C cable would still continue to work as usual, including remaining firmly attached as expected.
The patent was applied for in May 2018 and published a few days ago, so it may be an idea Microsoft is actively working on.
It can be seen in full here.