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Apple patents retractable notebook ports

updated 10:35 am EDT, Thu August 16, 2007

Apple laptop I/O patent

Apple may be planning to offer a retractable set of USB, FireWire, Ethernet, and other connections on future notebooks to decrease the overall size of its portables, according a patent filed by the company which surfaced today. Apple's "Connection System" patent filing shows a series of I/O ports on the rear of a laptop that close to conserve space but flip down to provide access when needed. The patent also entertains the possibility of allowing each port to open and close individually, providing access to only those connections that are needed at any given time. Apple is aiming to conserve space by recessing the various connections into the body of the laptop, which would also allow the company to create a tapered edge around the entire system when all ports were in their dormant positions.

Industry watchers expect the Cupertino-based company to unveil its first ultra-portable notebook by early 2008, which would bring an even smaller laptop to Apple's lineup of portables.

Readers interested in Apple patent and trademark filings can visit our patent blog at http://www.macnn.com/patents
















by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. bjojade

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Cool

    Not only do they slide out of the way, the ports themselves compact. Amazing.

  1. Darwiniandude

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    pointless?

    I love current apple products, but making the ports retract would only serve to protect them, which is good... it wouldn't really save space. Cool though. As for compacting ports, i'd rather not as i'm sure this would weaken them.

  1. Rincewind

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    weakening...

    The ports should only be weakened if you created the wrong flex points. The "meat" of a port is typically a fairly small part of the port, with the bulk of it being essentially a cable holder.

    Since the ports can only get smaller, when they extend to full size they should be as strong as normal ports - actually better, because if they flex at all, it's going to be towards gripping the cable better.

  1. hybrid

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Neat idea...

    but introducing moving parts in order to make "collapsible" connectors strikes me as a potentially bad idea... as they wear out, it could produce intermittent connections.

  1. Geobunny

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    re: neat idea

    Call me a cynic, but intermittent connections == money for apple as customers pay to repair/replace machines. Seems to me like Apple would view this as a "potentially very good idea".

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    3 words

    More Moving Parts?

    Generally, the more moving parts you add to a thingee, the more likely something will break.

    I am not looking forward to this at all.

  1. eddd

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    thin is in

    looks like "thin" is the key word for current Apple design directions. And it's amazing to think that ports may be the thickest part of system. This seems like a bad idea, though, for the reasons already mentioned.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Re: thin is in

    The other issue is that these will be on the side, as Apple's designs currently fold the laptop lid behind the back of the laptop (thus saving vertical space, for, say, on an airplane). And is it really that important for the side (hey, more things sticking out to catch yourself on, sending your laptop to the floor!).

    And these aren't that revolutionary. I've used PC laptops that have had network and modem ports that pop out, rather than just plug in.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    BTW

    Doesn't MacNN know that companies file hundreds, if not thousands, of patents a year, and many of them never amount to much (or, more importantly, end up in a different product, say a mobile phone), thus publishing every new patent application and speculating about it usually doesn't have much value (well, except for click-throughs!).

    Although I'm still waiting to find out what Apple's planning to do with the mammals.org web address. It must be something huge, since its been in their possession for like 10 years!

  1. Fast iBook

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    How...

    How can you assume that there will be intermittent signal on a device you've not even seen in real life working in action? Ever think that the individual connectors in each port would be not an internal flexing cable, but a series of hinged connections? Some lamps use this technique to transmit switch on or off position to the controller which in turn sends current to the bulb or not depending on the situation. You know what else comes to mind? Airport jetways have hinged connections at 2-3 spots, heck, even sliders on amps and sound boards etc have similar connections. You don't need to worry as long as the hinged area is properly sealed.

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