Apple patents an iPad accessory that turns it into a Mac

Looking to the future: Apple has patented a new style of keyboard for the iPad that works in conjunction with macOS-style software to turn it into a portable computer. It has a more natural look than the kickstand used by most existing iPad keyboards, as well as much deeper software integration.

If this sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of Microsoft Surface devices. Microsoft markets the Surface Pro as a more capable version of the iPad Pro in its clunky but fun commercials. iPad proponents say Apple’s device is better at what it does, if slightly less versatile.

A new iPad based on this patent would reverse this paradigm. It would have a true clamshell form factor. Apple’s existing Magic Keyboard is more of a folding case and keyboard hybrid than just a keyboard accessory.

This keyboard accessory is designed to attach to the base of the iPad, much like the Surface Pro keyboard. It has “electromechanical” keys and the large trackpad that MacBooks are famous for. It could also, according to Apple’s patent, have a slot for a stylus or a small touchscreen similar to a Touch Bar.

As it stands, you can already get iPad keyboards with these features without the Touch Bar from third-party manufacturers like Logitech. Combined with iPad OS, the iPad is already a capable substitute for a laptop. This patent looks more like Apple’s spin on an existing idea than a redesign of the iPad, but it could also be a stepping stone to further upgrades.

1652041450 126 Apple patents an iPad accessory that turns it into a Mac

Apple’s patent emphasizes the MacOS-like interface associated with the keyboard, although this software is probably beyond the scope of this patent. Apple hasn’t committed to going in that direction, but they’ve been moving towards a more traditional desktop since iPadOS, which launched two years ago and will soon enter its fourth iteration.

Meanwhile, other Apple patents show the iPad moving in bolder directions. A versatile connection port designed for a keyboard accessory could also be used for other proprietary or third-party accessories, like cameras or microphones, or even, as one patent describes, a secondary display.

1652041451 395 Apple patents an iPad accessory that turns it into a Mac

It’s cool to see Apple experimenting with new ideas for the iPad, but it wouldn’t be the first time Apple patented something cool and exciting to get stuck on the drawing board. So this product might not exist, but it would be cool if it did.

Header credit: Maury Page

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