updated 11:25 am EDT, Thu August 28, 2008
Apple Mac Tablet Patent
Apple has been developing interface technology that would allow for a multi-touch handheld with full Mac OS X rather than a streamlined interface, the company has revealed through a US patent filing published today. Showing an example device which is clearly portable, the patent for a gesture system would adapt many of the basic control scheme elements familiar to Mac OS X to an environment where touch input is assumed but which is larger than an iPhone or iPod touch-class device.
As an example of overcoming common size restrictions, the close/minimize/maximize buttons in the title bar would deliberately expand when the user reaches to touch one of them, permitting Apple to use its standard Mac OS X interface without compromising the controls for touch-only users.
The interface would also change slightly and at times significantly depending on the context. Instead of the flick gesture of the iPhone to scroll through lists, users would rely on a two-finger drag to move up or down the list and a single finger to tap a selection. On-screen keyboards would also be larger and recognize more than one finger at a time for key combinations, while an iPod-like scroll wheel could appear on cue for scrubbing through media or fast scrolling elsewhere. Dials and similar rotary controls are also discussed as possibilities.
Apple notes that the publication continues a patent that was originally applied for in 2004 but expands significantly on that information. The new filing was submitted much more recently, in April 2008, and follows an application for a for multi-touch creative app patent revealed in July.
The company isn't obligated to use either of the patents and hasn't revealed any products but is widely believed to be in long-term development of larger touch devices that would have a more complex interface than any of Apple's current touch-driven hardware and use faster components, potentially involving the Intel Atom architecture (once codenamed Silverthorne for UMPCs). Early predictions would have had at least one device release in 2008, though this is no longer certain and may be pushed back to 2009 if introduced.