Apple is exploring the possibility of integrating a fully functional Mac into a keyboard, reminiscent of 1980s personal computers such as the Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
The concept was revealed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in a new Apple patent application called “Computer in an input device,which describes a thicker Magic Keyboard-style chassis with “all the components of a high-performance computer” integrated under the hood.
The patent outlines the premise of such a device, which could be plugged into a separate external display via a single I/O port designed to receive both data and power, and paired wirelessly with a trackpad or a mouse for additional input.
Although portable computing devices, such as laptops and tablets, can be connected to a desktop or home office station that includes a secondary display to provide a computing experience similar to a desktop computing experience, these devices require always an additional set of device inputs to mimic a desktop computing device. Additionally, the primary display of devices such as laptops and tablets can often not be used when the device is docked to a station that includes a secondary display, adding potentially unnecessary size and cost to these portable computing devices. .
The computing devices described herein may incorporate or otherwise house one or more computing components within an input device to provide a portable desktop computing experience at any location having one or more computer monitors. For example, a user can carry a keyboard that houses a computer, instead of carrying an entire laptop or tower and keyboard. Since some form of input device is often required to interact or interface with a computing device, the inclusion of computing components within the case or enclosure of an input device can eliminate the need redundant sets of input devices and reduce the number of components that must be carried by the user. Additionally, the input device can eliminate additional components such as displays, which are not required when used with a stand-alone computer monitor, thereby reducing cost and size.
By including the computing components in the keyboard, Apple suggests it could allow a user to carry a single device capable of delivering a desktop computing experience to any location that has one or more external displays.
In some embodiments the device includes a trackpad “coupled” to the case, while in others the device is foldable and the keyboard area includes an “accessory display” displaying graphics, or the keyboard itself is virtually displayed from a projector contained inside the case.
The remainder of the patent explores in detail various configurations of internal computer components within the space offered by the keyboard chassis.
Apple has filed patents for keyboards in the past, including one that uses a touchscreen similar to the Touch Bar that spans entire keyboard layoutbut it’s the first patent to suggest actually incorporating a computer into the keyboard itself.
As with any filed patent, the technology is unlikely to appear in a product anytime soon, if at all, but it does offer some interesting insight into how Apple envisions Mac designs that may eventually replace or be offered alongside the Mac mini. , allowing users to bring their own monitor, keyboard and mouse.
(Via Apple obviously.)