Apple, Inc. (AAPL) Steals a Page from Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)?

Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) have been in an on-going battle over innovation ever since Windows was first brought into market. There has been a lot of buzz lately over Microsoft’s cover for its new tablet venture, the Surface. It’s supposed to have a functional keyboard inside it.

Apparently, word is that Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) may already be beating Microsoft to the punch, as the image above is a sketch of an Apple iPad cover that has a built-in keyboard, similar to the one bandied about for the Microsoft Surface tablet. However, Apple’s version is supposed to be Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) on steroids.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)

Now, to be clear, there is no clear indication that Apple is actually building this keyboard – this sketch stems from an August 2011 – yep, a year ago – patent application filed by Apple to grant it exclusive innovative rights to this Smart Cover. But this Smart Cover isn’t just a keyboard. Word is that, if Apple is making such a device, that it has its own AMOLED display, so it could function as “an extended desktop.” It also supposedly could show status messages or audio player controls when the cover is bent back. Also, this cover may have options like solar panels, a smal battery and even a little bit of storage space for temporary files.

“First, this configuration gives the user an experience much closer to the one enjoyed by laptop users. Second, by allowing the user to easily view the screen and by providing a convenient surface to type on, tasks such as word processing and email become much more efficient,” the patent document stated. “The addition of cover display ameliorates the limited screen area problem and makes a number of tasks significantly easier, in some cases functioning as an extended desktop.”

Now, of course, with Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) putting out this patent a year ago, and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) just weeks away from releasing its Surface tablet (with its own version of a smart cover) to the public, one can certainly bet that the patent wars Apple seems to be into now (see Samsung) may well extend to perhaps Apple’s No. 1 longtime innovation rival. By the way, Apple and Microsoft are two of the 10 most popular stocks among hedge funds (see the list of 10 most popular stocks here).