Apple has applied for a patent on a novel concept for an all-in-one PC — an iMac built into a single, curved sheet of glass encompassing both a keyboard and dual trackpads.
The patent application, which isn’t the same thing as a patent grant, shows an attractively curved conceptual machine with a trackpad on either side of the keyboard. I’m not sure what kind of application use there would be for that kind of multi-touch support, but it’s a really interesting idea.
The patent allows for the keyboard to detach during use. This concept would expand the idea of an AIO to its logical conclusion: By integrating a trackpad and keyboard, the device becomes a true “all-in-one” computer. While no company has ever built a machine like this out of glass, the idea of a “true” AIO isn’t new.
When I was in elementary school, we had a computer classroom afflicted equipped with TRS-80 Model III and IV. The AIO concept with a keyboard attached isn’t new; it’s just that no one has tried to make one out of glass before. One idea Apple has is to put all of the hardware in the base of the system, as shown below:
There are other concepts for the design as well, including one where a MacBook would physically dock with the system, leaving its keyboard and trackpad available for use. Patently Apple dives deep into the patent for the curious.
The overall implication of the patent is that Apple is contemplating an extremely flexible product — one capable of docking with a laptop while using its trackpad and keyboard, of providing an integrated keyboard with dual trackpads, and in one contemplated use-case, folding the keyboard to lie flat against the display for easier storage.
If you look at this design and assume more traditional materials, it looks as though Apple would shift the actual internal hardware to the base of the system, like the Surface Studio, rather than putting them behind the monitor. The visual effect of the system recalls some aspects of the iMac but puts its own spin on the idea.
Applying for a patent on a product isn’t the same as building it, and it’s not clear if modern glass manufacturers are capable of building a design like this in the first place. The company does seem to be making some changes to its product designs now that it’s cut loose from Jony Ive, so it’s possible we’re seeing Apple explore ideas and concepts that were previously considered off the table.
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