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Is Apple planning to kill off the keyboard?

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New MacBook 35

The keyboard has been a consistent staple of personal computing, but it might not always be that way.

Apple has filed a patent for a touch-sensitive surface that replaces the keyboard on an electronic device.

The patent features a diagram where a MacBook keyboard is replaced by a capacitive surface, which recognises input without the need for buttons.

Apple describes the technology as ‘zero-travel input’, because the key-press action is completely removed.

“The input structure has a metal contact layer, a sense layer positioned below the metal contact layer, and a drive layer capacitively coupled to the sense layer,” reads the patent application, which was filed on September 30, 2014, but published on April 7.

macbookVia US Patent & Trademark Office

Interestingly, the patent also describes the flat, key-less keyboard as “force-sensitive”, which could suggest the incorporation of Apple’s pressure-sensitive 3D Touch technology, as featured on the iPhone 6S.

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However, the existence of this patent is in no way indicative of intent to use the proposed technology. There’s always a chance that Apple may never roll out such a touch-sensitive keyboard on the MacBook, or any other PC device for that matter.

What’s more, many consumers are beholden to the physical sensation that comes from engaging a key. That’s partly the reason why mechanical keyboards still see strong sales, particularly in the PC gaming market. If Apple did kill off physical keyboards, it’s likely some users would be unhappy.

What are your thoughts on the prospect of a touchscreen keyboard for the MacBook? Let us know in the comments.

Hamish Campbell

April 9, 2016, 7:34 pm

oooooh, just like start trek!!

As a touch typist, I would hate this.

TheHulksMothersCousin

April 9, 2016, 11:00 pm

They will phase out old keyboards then reintroduce the sensation they give on these new keyboards lol. This makes no sense as I dont feel like the travel time on my keyboard is even noticeable. The only time old fashioned keyboards will phase out is when there is a quicker more accurate way with less real estate to input data. Speech or thought is the only way I can see that happening.

Dead Words

April 10, 2016, 10:00 pm

Change for the sake of change. Another scenario where Apple is attempting to phase out an industry norm in an attempt to "innovate" but rather just alienate users with another gimmick. If Apple does use this patent, that is.

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