Apple may soon be channeling its inner Motorola and Asus if a product described in a recent patent application ever comes to fruition.

Filed in September and published on Thursday, the patent in question outlines the use of an iPhone to “power” a clamshell-style notebook. What’s unique about Apple’s approach is that, unlike the Motorola Atrix or the Asus PadFone which used a mobile device solely as the brains of the operation, a mated iPhone would also serve as the laptop’s touchpad.

Again, the concept isn’t new and thus far, hasn’t been successful. Why would Apple think its prospects are any better?

The aforementioned devices (especially the Atrix) were way ahead of their time and by today’s standard, they weren’t very powerful. Perhaps more importantly, the phones were designed primarily to work with the hardware accessories. The iPhone, on the other hand, is already in use by hundreds of millions of people.

Another variant on Apple’s concept would involve using an iPad as the device’s screen and for power although this doesn’t seem all that different from a standard keyboard case.

All things considered, I’m not sold on this being a great idea largely because it has already been tried by multiple companies and never took off. Having a patent on it is fine to protect the touchpad idea but personally, I’d be surprised if Apple brings something like this to market.