Thanks to Patently Apple (opens in new tab), we can see some of Apple's bright ideas for blurring the lines between tablets and laptops. In a new patent granted this week, Apple has described a hinged keyboard mechanism that would effectively turn an iPad into a MacBook Pro instead of just attaching a portable keyboard to it.
I know the idea of bringing Macs and iPads together has been dismissed by Apple, but with universal apps, iCloud and Universal Control the specific hardware is feeling less and less important – particularly now that the same kind of Apple Silicon is in both Macs and iPads. So this patent is a fascinating glimpse of where Apple might be headed in the longer term.
One attachment, many modes
The design Apple describes in the patent (opens in new tab) is a base system with an electromechanical keyboard and a hinged coupler, which would attach to your iPad "in multiple different installation modes", so in addition to a laptop mode you would be able to reverse the display so your device remains usable when it's closed.
According to Apple the base potion may have "one or more input devices (e.g., keyboards, trackpads, touchscreen displays, and the like) for providing inputs to the tablet computing device" and may also have space for a magnetically connected and wireless charging Apple Pencil; it might also have a second display for additional output along the surface of the coupling mechanism. This might be an always-on display, "configured to maintain a static graphical output while in a powerless state", that could show battery life and notifications.
As ever, patents don't necessarily end up as products. But it's interesting to think about what such a device might be like, and whether at heart iPads and Macs could effectively be the same.
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