Apple Imagines Mac-Inside-a-Keyboard Device Evocative of 80s Home Computers

Apple is exploring the possibility of integrating a fully functioning Mac within a keyboard, reminiscent of home computers of the 80s, such as the Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

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The concept was revealed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in a new Apple patent application called “Computer in an input device,” which describes a thicker Magic Keyboard-style chassis with “all the components of a high performance computer” integrated under the hood.

The patent describes the premise for such a device, which could be plugged into a separate external display via a single I/O port designed to receive both data and power, and wirelessly paired with a trackpad or mouse for additional input.

Although portable computing devices, such as laptops and tablets, can be docked at an office or home-office station that includes a secondary display to provide a computing experience that is similar to a desktop computing experience, these devices still require an additional set of input devices to imitate a desktop computing device. Further, the primary display of devices such as laptops and tablets often may not be used when the device is docked to a station that includes a secondary display, adding potentially unnecessary size and cost to such portable computing devices.

The computing devices described herein can incorporate or otherwise house one or more computing components within an input device to provide a portable desktop computing experience at any location having one or more computer monitors. For example, a user can transport a keyboard that houses a computer, as opposed to carrying an entire laptop or a tower and keyboard. As some form of an input device is often required for interacting or interfacing with a computing device, including computing components within the housing or enclosure of an input device can eliminate the need for redundant sets of input devices and reduces the number of components that need to be transported by the user. Further the input device can eliminate additional components such as displays, that are not required when used with a standalone computer monitor, thereby reducing costs and size.

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By including the computing components in the keyboard, Apple suggests this could allow a user to carry a single device that can provide a desktop computing experience at any location having one or more external displays.

In some embodiments, the device includes a trackpad “coupled” to the enclosure, while in others the device is foldable and the keyboard area includes an “accessory display” showing graphics, or the keyboard itself is virtually displayed from a projector contained inside the enclosure.

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The rest of the patent explores in detail various configurations of internal computer components within the space afforded by the keyboard chassis.

Apple has filed patents for keyboards in the past, including one that uses a touchscreen panel similar to the Touch Bar that extends to the entire keyboard layout, but this is the first patent to suggest actually incorporating a computer into the keyboard itself.

As with any filed patent, the technology is unlikely to appear in any product soon, if at all, but it does offer an interesting look at how Apple is considering Mac designs that could ultimately replace or be offered alongside the Mac mini, which allows users to bring their own display, keyboard, and mouse.

(Via Patently Apple.)