Let me state this right up front. A touchscreen notebook or desktop computer is, in general, not a good idea. Apple shouldn’t make an iMac or MacBook perform like an iPad or iPhone with our fingertips. Why not? Please. The physical effort to navigate OS X using the combination of fingertip, hand, wrist, arm and shoulder is not a valid replacement or addendum to fingers on a trackpad or mouse.
Alright, with that out of the way, our friends at Patently Apple have uncovered a new patent granted to our favorite device maker, including one where the keyboard could disappear, out of site.
Welcome to a view of a futuristic MacBook where the keyboard could appear or disappear with a single wave of the user’s hand. Now that’s cool.
Hmmm. A keyboard that appears and disappears with a little sleight of hand motion. Think about the implications.
The patent details are more than intriguing and smack of a potential change to how we view and interact with a typical notebook (the patent drawings resemble a MacBook). Imagine a thin slab of screen, completely similar to an iPad, yet with a built-in keyboard that is integrated within the device.
Wave your hand and the keyboard appears. But why? The clamshell notebook design has been around for decades. Open the clamshell to reveal keyboard, trackpad, and screen.
What I’m envisioning here is a device so thin and light as to make a MacBook Air or an iPad 4 appear as if they belonged in a museum. Yet, the device would sport a physical keyboard, a trackpad, and a touchscreen.
Is it a Mac with a touchscreen? Or is it an iPad with a keyboard? The patent itself, as described in Patently Apple, is a bit of a complicated read, mostly because we think in terms we know– screen, keyboard, trackpad, clamshell, in the case of a MacBook. Or, in the case of an iPad, touchscreen device where a keyboard is an add on.
Apple probably has many thousands of patents for devices or technology that will never see the light of day in a physical product. In most cases, Apple has developed a clever idea that could be implemented in a future technology. In other cases, the idea is simply used as intellectual property to bargain with other companies and their patents and technology.
That’s what I think this patent is. But that got me to thinking about how much the computer device landscape has changed in a mere 10 years. A Mac with a touchscreen? That’s silly, right? There’s too much physical effort involved to control OS X and Mac apps.
What about the Mac of the future? You know, the one that’s no bigger than an iPad 4, but lighter, with a keyboard that’s hidden out of sight until needed. And with voice control, facial recognition, motion controls, and a whole host of intricate functionality squeezed into a device that does what a Mac does, but does more than an iPhone or iPad?
What’s considered a crazy patent today, might just as easily be in a mainstream device in another five years.