updated 01:50 pm EDT, Mon August 23, 2010
Computer could transition between touch, mouse
Apple could be planning to introduce touchscreens to the iMac by way of a hybrid interface, a recently discovered patent application suggests. The company notes that despite the usefulness of a touch interface, a mouse- and keyboard-based one is still better in some circumstances. To switch between the two, Apple proposes a design in which a computer's display would be upright for the mouse interface, but slanted down and back for touch.
To make the transition possible an iMac would need a flexible display stand, and a sensor to determine when to change. For the latter Apple proposes several options, such as an accelerometer, a rotation sensor in the stand, and/or a special touch sensor at the place people would want to grip the display. Past a certain input limit, a computer would automatically switch between interfaces.
Notably, elements of Mac OS X such as the Menu Bar, the Dock and the mouse cursor could be made to slide off-screen during the handover. Apple has not specified what the touch interface would be, but PatentlyApple speculation contends that it could be iOS. The firmware is already based on Mac OS X, and might allow portability between desktop and handheld devices.
Apple further proposes extending the idea to a touch-based notebook. Like some Windows tablets, people would have to rotate a MacBook's screen to lay flat against a keyboard.
The patent was found through the World Intellectual Property Organization, and dates back to January 14th. Shortly thereafter, Apple was already rumored to be interested in building a 22-inch touchscreen iMac.