Future MacBooks could blur lines between trackpad, keyboard and screen

A new patent filed by Apple suggests the company is looking to integrate trackpad-style functionality into its keyboards. This, combined with previous patents about using a touchscreen as a MacBook keyboard, is starting to make it look like Apple is looking to blur the lines between screen, keyboard and trackpad.

The newest patentspotted by CultofMac, describes a “mechanical keyboard” that can be “placed in a gesture operation mode” to allow users to perform a “touch event” on the surface of the keys.

Essentially you’ll either be able to type or your keyboard like a traditional keyboard, or swipe your fingers along its surface as you would a trackpad. Either the functionality could be used alongside a traditional trackpad or — if it’s good enough — it could end up replacing the trackpad entirely.

The patent suggests Apple is looking to combine elements of the MacBook’s main two input devices, but alongside other recently discovered patents, a very interesting picture starts to emerge of where Apple sees notebook design heading.

Input convergence

We’re referring here to a recent Apple patent for a MacBook equipped with a touchscreen keyboard that would essentially turn the notebook into a dual-screen device.

Already Apple is integrating small touchscreen displays into its latest MacBooks with the Touchbar, but this patent suggests its looking to take this idea much further.

We should always take patents like this with a pinch of salt, but in theory if both patents end up coming to fruition we could end up with a touchscreen keyboard that’s simultaneously a trackpad and second screen, depending on what the user needs.

Related: MacBook Pro

Yes, the thought of giving up the tactility of a physical keyboard fills us with a certain amount of trepidation (especially after having discovered the pleasures of a decent mechanical keyboard), but then we would have said the same thing about giving up a ‘real’ Home button on the iPhone 7. If you’ve had the chance to try out that phone, then you’ll know the force feedback is so precise that you’d swear blind you were pressing a mechanical button.

Where do you see the design of MacBooks heading in the future? Let us know @TrustedReviews.