Apple research continues on combining iPhone, iPad with MacBook-style accessory

Posted:
in iPhone
Apple is still considering ways to make the iPhone and iPad work more closely with MacBooks, including a system where an iOS device is inserted into a MacBook shell as a display or as a replacement trackpad with a screen.




Granted on Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the simply-named "Electronic accessory device" patent suggests how an iPhone, iPad, or other device could be augmented into a MacBook-like device. Effectively a peripheral, the shell would require an iOS device to be inserted in order to function, effectively extending the smartphone or tablet's usability into the realm of notebooks.

AppleInsider previously reported on the initial application for this specific patent, which was filed with the USPTO on September 20, 2016.




The shell is intended to appear similar to a MacBook, complete with keyboard and aluminum enclosure, but with sections missing in order to accommodate a mobile device. For an iPhone, the trackpad area would be hollowed out for the device to be inserted, while the iPad version would eliminate the display, with the iPad itself becoming the "notebook" screen.

While the shell would have most of the hardware required to work as a notebook, including an extra GPU to drive the display, ports, and other internals alongside its external appearance, it would not be functional unless a host device was installed. The cavity sections would include connectors to provide power to the host device, most likely through an extra battery in the shell or by pass-through charging, as well as for it to communicate with the other components.

Not only would it act as a host, the iPhone or iPad would also work as a touch interface in its own right, with the iPhone behaving like a trackpad and the iPad becoming a MacBook's touchscreen.




Apple applies for many patents on a weekly basis, and its publication by the USPTO is not a guarantee that concepts described in filings will turn up in consumer devices.

So far, Apple has not moved down the road of combining its iOS and MacBook lines in this way, and there is no sign this being changed anytime soon. It is likely the company is keen on keeping the product lines separate, while those wishing to turn an iPad or iPad Pro into a notebook already have many keyboard accessories and cases on the market that can provide similar functionality, such as Apple's own Smart Keyboard lines.

Apple is not the only one to have investigated using a smartphone in conjunction with a notebook. At CES 2018, game peripherals producer Razer showed off Project Linda, a concept notebook that had a space for a Razer-branded Android smartphone to be inserted in the trackpad area, with the mobile device also acting as a host for the entire setup.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    With a 250-500Gb SSD and I5-I7 level processor, this is inevitable.

    Those who try to hold back progress to protect existing technology just get run over...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 22
    This will prevent anybody else from doing anything similar even though Apple would never do it. Smart!
    edited September 11
  • Reply 3 of 22
    ....
    So far, Apple has not moved down the road of combining its iOS and MacBook lines in this way, and there is no sign this being changed anytime soon. It is likely the company is keen on keeping the product lines separate, while those wishing to turn an iPad or iPad Pro into a notebook already have many keyboard accessories and cases on the market that can provide similar functionality, such as Apple's own Smart Keyboard lines.

    ....
    I would disagree with that statement.
    They made the iPads more powerful and attractive by adding external keyboards.  But, until they add a cursor/touchpad they are keeping the product lines very separated.  
    -- The Macs are cursor input
    -- The iPads are touch screen input

    That split separates the two computers by functionality.  Some functions work best with a touch screen and some with a cursor.

    While I agree with Apple that touchscreen is not a great option for a laptop, they have never said anything similar about adding a cursor and a touchpad or equivalent on its keyboard to the iPad.  Yet,they keep dragging their feet on it.

    I keep wondering what the hold up is...
    And, I'm hoping that it isn't profit related.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 22
    asciiascii Posts: 5,816member
    I would buy one as long as (as the article suggests) there is an extra GPU in the laptop part.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 22
    I have a 15" Surface Book 2 and while it's kind of nice I feel like an all-in-one ends up being a bit awkward unless each mode has an OS suited to it. I much prefer to use my iPad Pro 12.9" in tablet mode so the surface just ends up being a ridiculously overpriced slimline laptop (that I can play actually good 3d games on.. while plugged in of course - Total War Warhammer 2 drains the battery in like an hour). In retrospect I would have been better off buying a more chunky laptop and only taking that out for documents/games. Anyway with 7nm parts in the next few years we might meet efficiency to have a more full fledged OS with good battery power but the question is if you can make it ideal for both modes in one OS or it needs to do some kind of switching
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 22
    Would be silly not to pursue this road – whether it makes sense and/or will become a product is something entirely different.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 22
    I mentioned this idea of a headless MacBook years ago, and generally, it's an obvious way to combine the power of a MacBook with an iPad. 

    I would suggest the headless MacBook would be the ARMBook -- that is, MacOS running on an Apple Arm processor. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 22
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,576member
    When I use my Mac, be that a mbp or iMac I always have my iPhone close by for calls. To have my phone locked away inside my computer would be an inconvenience. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 22
    Eh. If it’s not wireless, it’s not worth doing.  

    Remeber the Palm Foleo?  They already tried this.

     https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_Foleo
  • Reply 10 of 22
    These patents seem like misdirection, as they look like the proverbial fridge/toaster combo Apple has repeatedly derided. I do think they’ll eventually come out with a notebook design where the entire keyboard and trackpad area has been replaced with a touch screen surface. Like iOS, this setup would allow for a keyboard (in any language) to appear only when needed, and otherwise the touch surface could be showing application specific shortcuts- literally surfacing power commands that only keyboard shortcut aficionados know now. To make it work though they’d have to beef up the “Taptic” feedback system found in the current trackpads. Ideally they figure out some magic sauce to predict when a finger strike is imminent so that one feels one of those crazy fake clcicks that’s actually a vibration as soon as one’s finger lands on the virtual key. Use some IR inferometer setup or some such maybe.
    rossb2
  • Reply 11 of 22
    nunzy said:
    This will prevent anybody else from doing anything similar even though Apple would never do it. Smart!
    As far as I know, Razer already did this, but it just didn't catch on. If Apple will do it (to me it seems inevitable evolution of smartphones), it will probably be more successful.


    nunzy
  • Reply 12 of 22
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,607member
    This concept may be appropriate for cases where there are severe physical or budgetary constraints of some sort. I'm more inclined to prefer the redundancy that multiple independent devices provide. Relying on an iPhone as an essential component for a notebook or tablet creates a single point of failure for both systems.

    I'm personally more interested in approaches that consider using an iPhone and/or iPad to act as additional processing, sensing, and user interaction elements when connected to a notebook/desktop through a high speed serial connection. This "additive" approach gets into the domain of system-of-systems, an architectural approach that has been extremely effective for military systems since the late 1950s. Recent advances in system-of-systems are now taking advantage of second order benefits like real time and historical sensor data fusion, something that is crucial to enriching and accelerating machine learning and AI.

    In fact, Apple is already applying system-of-systems concepts in macOS 10.14 Mojave and iOS 12 with the iOS device acting as a camera for macOS apps. Tethering is another such example that's been around for a long time. Wifi calling is another. Several Apple Watch functions fall into this category. Taking it up a notch, why not allow a MacBook to offload some of its processing tasks to a connected iPad or iPhone that is otherwise idle? Why not use an iPad as a drawing surface for Mac apps? Why not allow all Apple devices in your home to operate as a whole home voice and video intercom system? Why not allow Face ID on your iPhone/iPad to unlock your Mac? It's all about aggregating the capabilities of multiple systems into a single (super) system for greater cumulative benefit and capability. This is all about providing additive capability to the super system without sacrificing the independent capabilities of the contributing systems. If the contributing system, e.g., your iPhone with Face ID, is not present the super system still works with its own organic capabilities. It's not easy and it's not cheap. All of the contributing systems usually need to be architected to know how to play well in the super system.     

    The concepts outlined in this article are the polar opposite: you're designing a system with a "hole" in it that depends on another system to provide its basic capability. It's "subtractive" rather than additive approach. However, this may still be a very good solution to certain problems, especially ones that involve limited resources such as physical space, weight limits, cost limits, energy consumption limits, etc. 
    pscooter63hubbaxwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 22
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,137member
    AI_lias said:
    nunzy said:
    This will prevent anybody else from doing anything similar even though Apple would never do it. Smart!
    As far as I know, Razer already did this, but it just didn't catch on. If Apple will do it (to me it seems inevitable evolution of smartphones), it will probably be more successful.


    I can’t see Apple ever doing this now. And I say this after having been the PowerBook Duos biggest fan. Apple has never gone back to the Duo model of computing despite the deafening demand by its customers, and many similarly filed patents for such hybrids. 

    Apple is clearly moving to the cloud, and wireless connectivity. And there’s nothing elegant about that concept of slapping a $1000 iPhone into a laptop shell only to be used as a trackpad. And it will still be running iOS which is a touch based UI, so it turns the smaller iPhone into a larger iPad? A wireless interface would be better for that, or even plug in a wired connection. And how would such a laptop shell accomodate 4 different iPhone sizes ... at least elegantly?

    No, Apple simply won’t go this direction.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 22
    Sounds like nonesense to me. There is no point in having a hybrid product. You end up selling less of another product, and competing with yourself. Plus, hybrid products end up being good at some things and bad at others. The macbook is a slim and beautifully made product. Giving it hinges or room to slide something in would just make it ugly and bulky, like so many laptop/tablet combos. It doesnt sound like a product Apple should make.
    edited September 11 watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 22
    LatkoLatko Posts: 115member
    nunzy said:
    This will prevent anybody else from doing anything similar even though Apple would never do it. Smart!
    That defensive patenting by the Cook Apple means that 80% of their R&D never sees light as a product with Apple being on the back side of the innovation curve. Happy hiking.
    (google the innovator’s dilemma, Christensen)
    edited September 11 nunzy
  • Reply 16 of 22
    I have an iMac, a MacBook Pro, an iPad Pro, and an iPhone X, and I'm proud to be an Apple fanboy, but I also have a Surface Book and Surface Studio because I need to run Revit. I'm imperessed with the build quality of these two items. I love my iMac, but the Surface Studio is the most beatiful computer I've ever seen. The Surface Book is a nice combination of a laptop and a tablet. All Surface devices have touch screens and face sign in. I wish Apple would provide these features on all their devices instead of just some. So why don't I switch to Surface? Because they run Windows. Yuk!
  • Reply 17 of 22
    dewme said:
    This concept may be appropriate for cases where there are severe physical or budgetary constraints of some sort. I'm more inclined to prefer the redundancy that multiple independent devices provide. Relying on an iPhone as an essential component for a notebook or tablet creates a single point of failure for both systems.

    I'm personally more interested in approaches that consider using an iPhone and/or iPad to act as additional processing, sensing, and user interaction elements when connected to a notebook/desktop through a high speed serial connection. This "additive" approach gets into the domain of system-of-systems, an architectural approach that has been extremely effective for military systems since the late 1950s. Recent advances in system-of-systems are now taking advantage of second order benefits like real time and historical sensor data fusion, something that is crucial to enriching and accelerating machine learning and AI.

    In fact, Apple is already applying system-of-systems concepts in macOS 10.14 Mojave and iOS 12 with the iOS device acting as a camera for macOS apps. Tethering is another such example that's been around for a long time. Wifi calling is another. Several Apple Watch functions fall into this category. Taking it up a notch, why not allow a MacBook to offload some of its processing tasks to a connected iPad or iPhone that is otherwise idle? Why not use an iPad as a drawing surface for Mac apps? Why not allow all Apple devices in your home to operate as a whole home voice and video intercom system? Why not allow Face ID on your iPhone/iPad to unlock your Mac? It's all about aggregating the capabilities of multiple systems into a single (super) system for greater cumulative benefit and capability. This is all about providing additive capability to the super system without sacrificing the independent capabilities of the contributing systems. If the contributing system, e.g., your iPhone with Face ID, is not present the super system still works with its own organic capabilities. It's not easy and it's not cheap. All of the contributing systems usually need to be architected to know how to play well in the super system.     

    The concepts outlined in this article are the polar opposite: you're designing a system with a "hole" in it that depends on another system to provide its basic capability. It's "subtractive" rather than additive approach. However, this may still be a very good solution to certain problems, especially ones that involve limited resources such as physical space, weight limits, cost limits, energy consumption limits, etc. 
    Some really good ideas here, dewme. I like this concept of a system of systems, being additive. I've always had an idea of creating a computer system with dynamic scalable 'modules' that can be added to increase performance/add functionality.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 22
    Latko said:
    nunzy said:
    This will prevent anybody else from doing anything similar even though Apple would never do it. Smart!
    That defensive patenting by the Cook Apple means that 80% of their R&D never sees light as a product with Apple being on the back side of the innovation curve. Happy hiking.
    (google the innovator’s dilemma, Christensen)
    Apple isn’t on the backside of the innovation curve. See retina displays, Touch ID, Face ID, their new display panel tech, etc.. Some of it we see, some of it we don’t. 
    bb-15watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 22
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,607member
    Latko said:
    nunzy said:
    This will prevent anybody else from doing anything similar even though Apple would never do it. Smart!
    That defensive patenting by the Cook Apple means that 80% of their R&D never sees light as a product with Apple being on the back side of the innovation curve. Happy hiking.
    (google the innovator’s dilemma, Christensen)
    I'm a big fan of Clayton Christensen, both as an astute business leader, business historical analyst, visionary, and an amazing human being. But like all humans, he is not always right and his predictions and insights sometimes fall short. Some of his Apple predictions have been dead wrong. Still, I wouldn't take anything away from him and always recommend his work both on HBR and his own catalog of well written books. One should never accept any single source of information as the sole basis of one's knowledge.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 22
    I’d be much more excited by the concept of two iPad type devices connected together. One the traditional screen (with touch capabilities) the second a giant Touch Bar if you will with switchable layouts. Full size keyboard and trackpad, keyboard only or full size graphics tablet to be used with Apple Pencil!
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