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Touchscreen iMac Patent Hints At Specialised Touch UI

Andy Vandervell


Apple Patent Hints At iMac Touch and MacBook Tablet

There's nothing like an Apple patent to get the tech community in a spin, and the latest one to arrive from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and unearthed by the wonderfully partisan Patently Apple website is a good one.

The patent, called 'Transitioning Between Modes Of Input', was filed back in July last year, and published in January of this year. It describes how a PC might transition "between a high-resolution input mode, such as a mouse-based interface, and a low-resolution input mode, such as a touch-based interface".

It goes on to explain various methodologies for achieving this, such as detecting the screen's orientation - upright for normal desktop operation, slanted to transition to lower-resolution touch UI. It also explains the stand design of a future iMac Touch, which would feature two hinges to enable a smooth transition between desktop and 'tablet' modes.

Apple has also submitted alternative systems whereby strategically placed sensors detect when you want to use the touch UI mode, thus enabling the machine to be used in touch mode when upright.

Also included is a mock-up of a laptop that clearly has a tablet style rotating hinge, adding that "the display could also be oriented for touch input. For example, the display 1130 may be rotated and laid flat against the keyboard 1134, with the backside of the display facing down against the keyboard so that the display screen is facing up, in an orientation for touch input".

Of course, trying to patent a tablet PC would be spurious in the extreme. However, the patent concerns itself solely in the transition between a normal PC UI and a touch one, not the mechanism itself - not that this isn't without dispute, either. Patent law is best left to the professionals, clearly.

It's all fairly interesting stuff, and a natural progression for a company famed for the touch UI of iOS 4 and the iPhone 4. We must admit to thinking the whole process of switching between different UIs a troubling one, but the fact that Apple is thinking at all along these lines provides food for thought. Would you buy a touchscreen iMac, or would a MacBook Tablet be more your kind of thing?

Source: WIPO

Via: Patently Apple and Engadget


August 24, 2010, 2:43 pm

To give Apple praise and scorn at the same time. This seems more like a Windows concept, it's too complicated. At one angle you type at another you touch; it's hardly the simplicity that Apple are famed for.

That said I just purchased my flatmates old HP Touchsmart desktop as they are moving away. For £200 it's a bargain. Windows 7 is ok for touch, but the next few months will hopefully see a better touch input for Windows or Google's Chrome OS or something like that will give more fluid control. I'd even stick on OSX Touch (or whatever Apple will call it) if and when they release that - not that they'd make it easy to stick on anything but their own hardware.


August 24, 2010, 4:48 pm

The addition of a touchscreen is nice but it doesn't change my need for portability, so my next Mac would be another laptop with or without it.


August 24, 2010, 4:49 pm

PS : I'd much prefer Blu-Ray!, Steve!!

Greg Shewan

August 24, 2010, 6:41 pm


How about you make the screens into a potable tablet (like the iPad), then create a base with more powerful internals for use at a desk? Keep the storage in the Pad/screen/tablet and imagine moving your tablet to a colleges station and having all your files?

Being a designer I think this could be quite cool for exchanging ideas, having said that...is this really that news worthy??? I don't see other patents shown from other manufacturers from time to time.

Are u guys trying to fill your Apple quota for the week? ;)


August 24, 2010, 7:05 pm

Having had a tablet laptop from Toshiba, I found using the touch screen a pain as I had to use the stylus. Something like this with a good sensitive touch-screen while still having the option to use a physical keyboard and pointing device (mouse/pad/whatever) strikes me as the best of both worlds - though why you would want to restrict the touch screen capability to a particular orientation escapes me. Now if they can get an OS that works well and doesn't restrict your ability to modify the system to your own requirements.....

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