It looks like Apple is thinking about how it could merge the experiences of MacBook and iPad users into one device… As Patently Apple reports, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has given its green light to a new patent from Apple — a patent for a “hinged keyboard accessory having multiple installation modes for a computer tablet».
According to the patent, this accessory could include one or more input devices (keyboard, touchpad, trackpad, etc.) that would work with a tablet, as well as a “pairing mechanism” that could include space to store a stylus. .
This proposed accessory, judging from Apple’s description in the patent and associated images, would attach to a tablet (presumably an iPad) through some connection port and then function as a fuller keyboard and trackpad (analogs to the keyboard of a MacBook). Although this is for the moment a simple deposit and not an official statement of intent from Apple, it is not certain that such an accessory will be made.
If you look at this patent as something that could exist one day, it paints an interesting picture. It looks like the proposed accessory wouldn’t simply clip around an iPad and connect via Bluetooth like most current tablet keyboards, but would instead connect through a new type of physical connection port. Presumably this would allow the accessory to function as a direct part of the tablet, without the possibility of latency issues caused by wireless connection issues and with a likelihood that the accessory could share power with the tablet rather than having to charge separately.
Additional images provided by Patently Apple show that the attached keyboard accessory could act as a cover for the tablet or swivel back for a touchscreen-driven interface. Much like current keyboard attachments for tablets, and other hybrid laptops, the hinge section appears to be intended to house an Apple Pencil or other type of stylus.
A macOS interface
There are also illustrations of a proposed on-screen interface which, although it is only a drawing for a patent and not proof of Apple’s plans, appears to be very analogous to the appearance of macOS. Complete with what looks like a desktop displaying separate windows, drop-down desktop menus (File, Edit, View, etc.), and positionable application icons.
None of this guarantees that Apple will create some sort of iPad-MacBook hybrid, but the company seems to be thinking about how it might create such a device.