Apple's modular iPad/MacBook patent lets you customise your dream machine

Apple patents One Thing to Rule Them All, and we really want it to become real

Apple iPad Pro
(Image credit: Apple)

Imagine you're a DJ and you use your MacBook Air, MacBook Pro or iPad on stage. To make that easier, there's a second, large touchscreen below the keyboard that delivers your virtual decks, faders and other controls. Or maybe you need portability as well as a massive display, so your MacBook has a second screen that simply snaps on when you need it. Perhaps you're a book editor who needs one screen for the manuscript and another for your reports. Or maybe you're a video editor whose fingers need to fly around a virtual editing system without taking your eyes of the screen.

The latest patent revealed by Patently Apple is really quite exciting.

Apple Modular Mac Patent image

(Image credit: USPTO)

A Swiss Army knife, except it isn't Swiss and isn't a knife

The patent is called "modularized computing & input devices" and shows a Mac- or iPad-style device broken into three different kinds of parts: a central hub, an input device such as a keyboard, and a screen or screens. These devices are designed to work together and enable you to build your ideal custom combination, so for example you might have double displays and no keyboard, or a standard laptop with an extra, full sized touchscreen beneath a smaller keyboard, or a keyboard that's a touchscreen, or...

I've been writing about Apple's patents for years and years, so I'm well aware that there are many more patents than there ever are products: I'm still waiting on the vertical iMac that folds down, Microsoft Surface Studio-style, to become a giant touchscreen. So while I love the idea of a modular Mac, I doubt we'll get something quite so exciting – but even if it isn't quite so flexible, a modular Mac could be an interesting alternative to the best 2-in-1 laptops.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (