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Apple patents low-profile memory slot

updated 01:10 pm EDT, Tue September 4, 2007

RAM slot for subnotebook?

Apple has patented a low-profile memory slot that could find its way into a tiny subnotebook computer from the Cupertino-based company. Apple's latest patent, titled "Method and apparatus for linear insertion and removal of a memory module in a computer system," describes a means of inserting memory using much less space than existing methods. The patent describes an "access door" that users can open to insert new memory modules into a computer, presumably sliding the memory chip in lengthwise through the door rather than opening the computer's case altogether to insert the memory in a traditional "top-down" style. The invention would greatly ease the process of upgrading memory in a small, compact computer -- such as the rumored subnotebook that industry watchers expect to debut some time this year.

Apple in mid-August was discovered to have filed a patent for retractable notebook ports, which include all of the laptop's connectivity options including RJ45 (Ethernet networking) and FireWire. The patent details a small molded panel that folds into the base of the notebook, hiding all ports until the need arises to connect a peripheral.

The patents further reinforce Apple's dedication to trimming down the size of its portable computers, and could describe technology used a subnotebook that is allegedly under development by the system builder.

Apple abandoned its line of subnotebooks in early 1997 when the company retired its wildly popular PowerBook Duo. Apple has since offered small full-sized notebooks like its iBook G3 models and 12-inch PowerBooks, but has not released a true subnotebook for more than 10 years.

Subnotebook plans discovered?

Nevertheless, one industry analyst earlier this year reported that Apple was increasing its use of NAND flash memory in its future product development plans, and that the computer manufacturer was already designing a new subnotebook that utilizes NAND flash memory as its primary source of storage. Flash storage is much faster and more reliable -- though more expensive -- than hard drive-driven devices, and uses much less power than mechanical storage means that rely on moving parts. American Technology Research senior analyst Shaw Wu predicted in early March that Apple was planning to introduce its subnotebook in the second half of this year.

Design concepts point to tiny MacBook

Japanese concept designer Isamu Sanada late last month pieced together several modern technologies with Apple's newer designs in a rendering of what he believes Apple's new subnotebook will look like. The rendering depicts a tiny laptop with a built-in DVD drive that spans nearly all of the laptop's base, and points to a touch-sensitive keyboard which would further reduce the size of a would-be subnotebook.

A forthcoming subnotebook from Apple could utilize the tubular structore of the company's recently released Bluetooth keyboard, as well as the LED display backlighting first introduced in the new 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops. Subnotebooks from Apple would likely make use of Flash-based storage, according to Sanada, or perhaps a small hard drive to reduce the thickness below any existing subnotebook on the market.

Apple's chip supplier Intel has already illustrated the possibility of an ultra-thin subnotebook through its Metro concept, which details a system with no optical drive that uses mechanical keys rather than a touch-sensitive keyboard approach.



















by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. Nostromo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    new?

    This looks a lot like the RAM slots currently used by the MacBook/MacBookPros. Could this just be Apple covering their butts?

  1. esoterica

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    no optical drive, please!

    I know it would be more technically impressive for them to cram an optical drive into a super-thin notebook, but i'd imagine that most road warriors who are in the market for a tiny notebook would gladly give up an optical drive for either smaller size, larger battery, larger screen, larger keyboard, or a combination of the above. Please make the optical drive a FireWire drive, Apple, it is no longer a necessity in this world of USB flash drives and ubiquitous WiFi.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Memory slot

    That mechanism was used in the first iMac G5 models. Hardly new anymore.

  1. notehead

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    duh.

    Are you guys really suggesting that the fiercely protective and secretive Apple is only now patenting a mechanism that it has already used for years? Try again.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Re: duh

    Are you guys really suggesting that the fiercely protective and secretive Apple is only now patenting a mechanism that it has already used for years? Try again.

    Of course its been used. If not, they'd be using those really cheesy graphics they use for their vague patent applications. Its probably clarifying one they already have.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Re: no optical drive

    please make the optical drive a FireWire drive, Apple, it is no longer a necessity in this world of USB flash drives and ubiquitous WiFi.

    I doubt that would happen (you know how Apple is about making sure the computer has everything, well, except perhaps the power supply). But I'd rather see a USB optical drive. USB is much more prevalent, and would allow it to usable on more types of systems.

    But we are talking apple. They can't even use a standard power cable for their towers, for fear someone might be able to just use any one laying about if it frays/breaks.

  1. phayd

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    re: power supplies

    Testudo, you do realize that all of Apple's computers use standard plugs that have been stylized? I used a standard power cable in a mac pro without problem last week, and regularly use a $4 cable in my power brick for my MBP.

    Now, if you want to get into how they make their USB extensions useless for anything but an Apple keyboard, I will agree full heartedly.

  1. resuna

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    make em bigger

    Given my current experience with Apple's "mag safe" connector (I've had to use electrical tape to keep it from coming out when working in bed) and the compromises they make shaving space (overheating macbook, underpowered mini usb ports) I wish Apple would either make at least one model in each line for people who just want a computer... not a lifestyle... or ship a version of OS X that I can use on hardware designed for function instead of style.

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