Apple patents iPad accessory that turns it into a Mac

mongeese

Posts: 584   +119
Staff member
Forward-looking: Apple has patented a new style of keyboard for the iPad that works in conjunction with macOS-style software to turn it into a laptop. It has a more natural look than the kickstand used by most existing iPad keyboards, and significantly deeper software integration as well.

If that sounds familiar, then you're probably thinking of Microsoft Surface devices. Microsoft markets the Surface Pro as a more capable version of the iPad Pro in their awkward but funny ads. iPad proponents say that Apple's device is better at what it does, even if it's slightly less versatile.

A new iPad based on this patent would reverse that paradigm. It would have a genuinely clamshell form factor. Apple's existing Magic Keyboard is more of a folding case and keyboard hybrid than a pure keyboard attachment.

This keyboard attachment is drawn connecting to the base of the iPad, much like the Surface Pro's keyboard. It has "electromechanical" keys and the large trackpad that MacBooks are famous for. It could also, Apple's patent says, have a slot for a stylus or a small touchscreen display similar to a Touch Bar.

As it stands, you can already get iPad keyboards with those features sans the Touch Bar from third-party manufacturers like Logitech. Combined with iPad OS, the iPad is already a capable substitute for a laptop. This patent seems more like Apple's spin on an existing idea than a redesign of the iPad, but it might also be a stepping stone to other upgrades.

Apple's patent emphasizes the MacOS-like interface paired with the keyboard, even though that software is likely outside the scope of this patent. Apple hasn't committed to going in this direction, but they've been heading towards a more traditional desktop since iPadOS, which launched two years ago and will soon enter its fourth iteration.

Meanwhile, other Apple patents show the iPad going in bolder directions. A versatile connection port designed for a keyboard accessory could also be used for other first-party or third-party accessories, like cameras or microphones, or even, as one patent describes, a secondary screen.

It's cool to see Apple experimenting with new ideas for the iPad, but this wouldn't be the first time that Apple has patented something awesome and exciting only to get stuck on the drawing board. So this product might not come to exist, but it would be cool if it did.

Masthead credit: Maury Page 

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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 6,277   +7,213
There's no reason these iPads shouldn't have a keyboard dock with a clamshell design to turn them into mac-like, less expensive options to the Macbook.
 

ypsylon

Posts: 493   +489
From hardware standpoint there is 0 requirement for some stupid accessories for MacOS to function on iPad.

MacOS requirement are rather tame. Min 4GB of RAM will do, but 8 is preferred. New iPads can expand to 16 like any MacBook. After switch to Arm, there is the same hardware underneath, but of course Apple has to screw people over. Exactly the same as with Repair Service which, as I predicted, is ludicrously complicated, convoluted and expensive for what it is.
 

waclark

Posts: 318   +210
Why not just buy a laptop from the git go, instead of taking in in the behind twice, given Apple's profit margin and pricing structure?.
Well, maybe you do your day-2-day work on a desktop with big screen, but you want something portable that is compatible with your desktop.You could buy a laptop but Mac laptops aren't cheap. Even with this accessory an iPad Air will be cheaper than a comparable MacBook Air.
 

waclark

Posts: 318   +210
From hardware standpoint there is 0 requirement for some stupid accessories for MacOS to function on iPad.

MacOS requirement are rather tame. Min 4GB of RAM will do, but 8 is preferred. New iPads can expand to 16 like any MacBook. After switch to Arm, there is the same hardware underneath, but of course Apple has to screw people over. Exactly the same as with Repair Service which, as I predicted, is ludicrously complicated, convoluted and expensive for what it is.
True, it's not needed for the hardware, per se. But I can see a usage case. From what I read here, it looks like the SW layer will convert the iPad interface to the Mac user interface. So when undocked, you have the touch-tablet interface. When docked you have the mouse/keyboard interface.

Even though the iPad has mouse capabilities, it's really not working like a mouse. It's just emulating touches as if you were using your hand. If you've used the iPad like this you know that it's not as elegant or easy to use as a mouse on a computer.
 

waclark

Posts: 318   +210
Apple's patent emphasizes the MacOS-like interface paired with the keyboard, even though that software is likely outside the scope of this patent.

Seems like there's not much to patent without the SW layer. There are already plenty of clamshell, keyboard cases for iPad. To me, the SW is interesting because it looks like to would alter the user interface when docked to be more MacOS like. The question is how would developers handle this with applications? Would they have to build in alternate user interfaces so they would have a touch-first and/or a keyboard/mouse interface for each app?
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,545   +7,387
Even with this accessory an iPad Air will be cheaper than a comparable MacBook Air.
Perhaps by not that much. Even so, it will still be overpriced. I think that the absurd price Apple has placed on a simple monitor stand, should be testament to that

My other reservation is that you have to carry two pieces of equipment, Stuffing it together and taking it apart constantly could possibly affect its service life, at least more so than opening and closing the lid of a laptop.
 

waclark

Posts: 318   +210
Perhaps by not that much. Even so, it will still be overpriced. I think that the absurd price Apple has placed on a simple monitor stand, should be testament to that

My other reservation is that you have to carry two pieces of equipment, Stuffing it together and taking it apart constantly could possibly affect its service life, at least more so than opening and closing the lid of a laptop.
Depending on which keyboard option you choose it could be $100-150 cheaper. If you choose a non-Apple keyboard you could probably get that as high as $200 cheaper.

The case I use is a Logitech and it closes up just like a laptop and uses the keyboard connectors on the iPad. No connecting or disconnecting unless you want to work without the keyboard. Newer models even have a touch pad in the keyboard as well. And there are BT options which have zero physical connections.

The bigger problem for the iPad, today, is limited storage (256G max) and insufficient connector ports. The article wasn't clear but the keyboard would need at least one USB C/Thunderbolt port so you can connect a dock for charging and expansion purposes.