Apple filed a European patent for a PC capable of shifting between touch-screen and traditional keyboard-and-mouse input, leading to speculation that the company could be preparing an iMac or other device capable of using both. Apple's touch-screen products, including the iPad, have seen notable marketplace success.
Could a touch-screen iMac appear in the near future?
That's the question drifting around the blogosphere, after Patently
uncovered an Apple patent showing a PC capable of shifting between
touch-screen and traditional keyboard-and-mouse input. The patent's
accompanying diagrams show an iMac-like PC in profile, with the screen capable
of hinging upwards to activate touch-enabled mode.
The patent was originally filed in Europe July 9, 2009, and published Jan. 14.
"While touch-based input is well-suited to many applications, conventional
styles of input, such as mouse/keyboard-based input, may be preferred in other
the patent's opening description
. "Therefore, it may be desirable for some
devices to provide for touch-based input as well as mouse/keyboard-based
The transition between traditional and touch-screen inputs could occur, the
patent suggests, when the screen is tilted vertically beyond a certain preset
angle: "One embodiment could utilize an accelerometer in combination with
rotation sensors at two hinges of an adjustable stand. Yet another embodiment
could utilize a combination of rotation sensors and touch sensor areas." The
user would presumably have granular control over what degree of angle would
activate one of the two input modes.
The patent also describes certain graphical "transition effects" that would
signify that change in modes, including icons sliding off the edges of the
screen. However, the document makes no specific mention of operating systems,
leaving it to speculation whether a touch-screen iMac would rely on the
smartphone-centric iOS4, the PC-based Mac OS X, or some hybrid solution.
If Apple eventually crafts PCs with touch-screen functionality, it would
follow other manufacturers' hybrid laptops and other devices that run a
touch-enabled version of Windows 7.
It's been a big week so far for Apple-patent hunters, who also discovered that
the company filed a
patent application in August that would restrict unauthorized users' access to
mobile devices such as iPhones
. Application number 20100207721
which can be found on the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office's database,
describes methods for detecting those unauthorized users, locking down the
device, and then alerting the original owner.
sold 3.47 million Macs during the third fiscal quarter of 2010
, along with
8.4 million iPhones, 3.27 million iPads, and 9.41 million iPods, on its way to
earning total revenues of $15.7 billion. An increase in those sales numbers
could make Apple the world's second-largest OEM semiconductor buyer in 2011, according
to a July 21 note by research firm iSuppli