Microsoft Solved the Biggest Annoyance With Batteries, But You Can’t Have It – Review Geek
Batteries are useful but have some issues. They can only support a limited load; Recharging them takes time if that’s even an option; there are many different types and you have to insert them in a particular way. Microsoft has fixed this last problem, but you may not have its solution.
The solution is annoyingly simple, to the point where it’s hard to believe someone hasn’t thought of it first. And if anyone else had thought of that, then the days of fumbling around in the dark trying to replace the now dead batteries in your backup torch would be over.
So let’s see how Microsoft solved one of the biggest problems with batteries and why you can only look and not touch.
Batteries must be inserted a certain way due to the initial operation of electrical circuits. Small appliances use “direct current” (DC), where the flow of electricity is constant and in only one direction. There is many reasons why small appliances are stuck on DC and can’t use the alternating current (AC) available to the power grid – and one of those reasons has to do with the battery.
Batteries cannot “store” alternating current; they or they only works in a DC configuration. Since small appliances rely on batteries, it makes sense to run them on DC power. It would also be expensive and wasteful to have them convert the DC output of the batteries to AC. Even if someone has designed an AC battery, other issues stand in the way, such as components that require a DC charge to function; LEDs are an example of this, some power would be wasted and there would be multiple issues during the design process. We’re stuck with DC.
And if you’re stuck with DC, your batteries need to point a particular way, with a positive terminal on one end and a negative terminal on the other being the most common solution. Some batteries like the 9 volt have both terminals at the same end but still need to be connected in a particular way, so that their charge flows in the right direction.
Microsoft”InstaLoadfound a way to connect the correct terminals and make charging happen the way you want it to, no matter how you insert the battery. The solution is to adapt a battery compartment, so that each end has a positive and negative contact. The spacing of these contacts dictates whether the “positive” or “negative” side of the battery will be connected.
If you look at a battery, a flat end acts as a negative terminal and an end with a “tip” acts as a positive terminal. It is this form that makes InstaLoad work. Both sides of an InstaLoad connector look the same. The flat negative terminal will connect to a flat C-shaped contact, while another contact, designed to connect to the protruding positive terminal, is placed further back. Each battery point can only connect to the correct terminal. The positive and negative compartment terminals are wired in sequence, so they all work properly together.
The device using InstaLoad always has a single positive and negative contact and uses direct current. But however you insert the battery, it will connect to the correct port and your power will flow the way you want it to.
Microsoft claims this technology works with all common replaceable battery types, including CR123, AA, AAA, C or D batteries. The InstaLoad system also works with rechargeable batteries.
This article is not current. Microsoft patented the InstaLoad system back in 2010. Well beyond the last 12 years of installing InstaLoad batteries in our small devices, most people have never heard of them.
Although we can’t know for sure, time and money may have caused some of InstaLoad’s adoption issues. Microsoft launched InstaLoad with a logo program and license fee, which is what many companies do when they release cutting-edge technology. The process involves signing a nondisclosure agreement, learning more about InstaLoad, building a prototype with an InstaLoad battery system, and paying a fee to Microsoft. This is all more expensive and complex than just designing something with a standard battery port.
Modern devices do not necessarily use disposable batteries. Internal rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and USB charging ports are common, even on portable radios and flashlights. A few years ago, AA or AAA batteries would have powered these devices. Even TV remotes come with internal rechargeable batteries these days.
Devices that still use disposable batteries instead of an internal rechargeable battery can be on the lower end of the price spectrum. For example, a AAA battery operated radio is about half the price of the $18 model I linked earlier. Traditional battery compartments use a simple, cheap and easy to implement system. Not only will the addition of Microsoft’s InstaLoad system increase the manufacturing expense of the cheap radio or torch, but it can also increase manufacturing costs and design complexity to such an extent that they can just as opt for an internal battery.
If Microsoft relaxes rules and fees, InstaLoad could finally take off. The system has an advantage over a standard battery compartment, but exists at a time when other, even more convenient options are available. If you add
On the one hand, Microsoft may not have much to gain beyond the exposure that comes with having your logo appear on a bunch of cheap devices. On the other hand, InstaLoad’s patent sat on the shelf for over a decade, so they don’t lose anything if they make it open source.
There’s been near-silence on InstaLoad for over a decade now, so it’s hard to discern precisely why the system hasn’t taken off. A potentially telling note is that Microsoft doesn’t even use it.
Microsoft owns the patent and can freely use the system. Microsoft developed it and should know its applications inside out. They designed InstaLoad as a simple solution, so it doesn’t add a lot of expense to a device beyond licensing fees.
Several Microsoft devices, including Xbox controllers and computer mice, can also use disposable batteries. So there are many areas where Microsoft could have implemented its own breakthrough technology. If, with ownership of the concept and all of its resources, Microsoft isn’t using the InstaLoad system, why would anyone else?