Apple working on radical iMac redesign using single sheet of glass

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited February 2020
A future version of the iMac may take a more radical form, with Apple considering a redesign of the all-in-one desktop so it effectively exists as a single sheet of curved glass with an embedded display.




The iMac is one of the many iconic devices designed by Apple, with the all-in-one Mac consisting of a thin display housing the main components and a small stand to hold the display at eye-level for the user. While the design has received refinements over the years to make the main screen section thinner and sleeker, Apple is also mulling over making a more striking change to its design.

In a patent application published by the US Patent and Trademark Office for an "Electronic Device with Glass Housing Member," Apple is exploring the boundaries of the iMac by proposing one that is effectively formed from a single sheet of glass.

In its basic form, the Mac would consist of the sheet with a curved lower portion on one edge, which resides on the desk is used to hold input devices, and a larger flat area which would include the embedded display. The glass would form the main support structure for holding the display in place, affixed to the backside of the glass, and could feasibly include a connection for an iSight camera in its usual place above the screen.

The basic concept of the glass-like iMac design
The basic concept of the glass-like iMac design


As it would be a single piece, the curved lip would not be enough to keep the glass upright for normal use. To solve this, Apple proposes the use of a wedge section that props up the glass, slotting to fit the curved section between the lower lip and the main upper panel.

Rather than just acting as a prop, the wedge could have sufficient volume to house components, such as ports for network connections, peripherals, and power. Doing this could take some of the weight of components away from the display, and in turn the glass, and give the wedge more weight for stability.

The angle of the glass could be adjusted by shifting its position against the wedge, seating it in a higher position or lower, depending on the user's preference.

Examples of the rear wedge concept and the hole, which could accept a MacBook's keyboard section
Examples of the rear wedge concept and the hole, which could accept a MacBook's keyboard section


To aid in its configurability, Apple has also proposed the curve of the glass itself could be adjusted in certain scenarios. Flattening the curve could make the Mac easier for packing or transportation, though it could also be folded up for an even smaller footprint for storage.

Another version switches out the single glass sheet for two panels that overlap at the curve, with the wedge helping hold the vertical glass in place while the lower lip rests against the assembly. Some versions could even switch out the wedge for a separate flat panel, which could hinge out when required.

While the lower section could be used simply as a place to put peripherals, such as a keyboard or mouse, Apple has further designs on its usage. An addition of a slot in the curved section could allow keyboards to be slid through it, possibly from the wedge element.

A suggested flexibility for the curve could allow the lower lip section to fold upwards completely
A suggested flexibility for the curve could allow the lower lip section to fold upwards completely


Another use for the slot could be for feeding the keyboard section of a MacBook through, so the keys could be used while the display of the MacBook outputs to the version in the glass, as if functioning as a docking system.

There is also the suggestion the glass lip could actually embed a keyboard into it, possibly taking advantage of ideas brought up in other glass keyboard patent applications.

Apple files numerous patent applications on a weekly basis, but while the existence of a filing indicates areas of interest for Apple's research and development efforts, they do not necessarily guarantee the concepts described will appear in a future product or service.

The patent application lists Keith J. Hendren, Paul X Wang, Adam T. Garelli, Brett W. Degner, Christiaan A. Ligtenberg, and Dinesh C. Mathew as its inventors.

Hendren is a product designer for Apple in the Macintosh Architecture Group, who has previously worked on in-key capacitive touch sensors for MacBooks.

Wang, a product design architect, has previously worked on fingertip and face mapping tools for VR and AR applications, and the design for a shape-changing Apple Pencil.

Garelli is a senior product design engineer for core integration architecture. Previously he worked on a solar-powered MacBook with a two-sided display.

A senior manager for product design at Apple, Degner has worked on the iMac Pro, MacBook Pro, and iPad Pro lines. To their name is a patent application that allows iPhones and iPads to be turned into a fully-fledged touchscreen notebook.

Product design architecture senior director Ligtenberg has previously come up with a plug-insertion guidance system for desktops, to help with plugging in cables and accessories for hard-to-see ports, such as on the back of an iMac.

Mathew is a director of product design at Apple, and was co-named on the in-key capacitive touch sensor patent, among others.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 61
    thttht Posts: 4,029member
    Argh, the headline had my hopes up for a new iMac industrial design, only for those hopes to be burned alive when the article is sourced from a patent application.
    williamhgregoriusmmattinozrandominternetpersonrepressthisMisterKitciapscooter63williamlondonGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 2 of 61
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,030member
    Not that I expect I'll ever be an iMac user again, but, just the same, this is getting me excited for what may come.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 61
    Scot1Scot1 Posts: 93member
    Well that’s no good. Nobody wants the keyboard that close to the display. 
    rotateleftbyteCloudTalkinfotoformatneo-techhawkpride147williamhentropysDAalsethdewmedysamoria
  • Reply 4 of 61
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 1,439member
    About FN time, damn I just bought one in 2019!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 61
    When I get excited about a new computer it is due to what can be done with it, not as much about how it looks. A new GPU architecture, AI features, a large number of CPU cores, built in cellular data, an edge to edge micro-led screen and so on. Sure it's great if the computer looks awesome, but design takes a back seat to functionality.
    gregoriusmPHS62dysamoriawilliamlondonGeorgeBMacbaconstangjony0iqatedo
  • Reply 6 of 61
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,728member
    I'm ready for a new iMac and have been waiting for an re-designed one.  My preference would be an iMac that mimics the XDR display on some level, XDR screen size & resolution, etc... I'm really hoping it is released in 2020.

    This patent design if fugly.  I hope it stays in the design phase.
    macpluspluspscooter63dysamoriawilliamlondongargravarrwatto_cobrabaconstang
  • Reply 7 of 61
    Scot1 said:
    Well that’s no good. Nobody wants the keyboard that close to the display. 
    Exactly my thoughts especially with a 27in screen.
    If it contained a charging recepticle (inductive/cordless) for the KB and Mouse then it would be very useful otherwise? forget it.

    repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 61
    Is it that hard to just release a Core i9 desktop with 128GB+ RAM options?  Update the Mini, offer a new MiniPro model, or something.  Could care less about these designs right now.  It's almost pathetic the MBP16,1 can outperform many of the current "desktop" options.  
    AI_liasentropysmobirdElCapitandarkvaderrazorpit
  • Reply 9 of 61

    If they just reduce the current designs bezels and reduce or entirely remove the chin so it looks like just the screen floating on the stand from the front, I think a lot of people would be excited.  I don't want to see them integrate the stand into the "face" of the device like these designs show.

    minicoffeewatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 61
    Glass isn’t great for dispersing heat.  Maybe they’re thinking of an inexpensive A Series designed iMac.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 11 of 61
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,738member
    Scot1 said:
    Well that’s no good. Nobody wants the keyboard that close to the display. 

    OMG. It's an illustration for a patent application, not a rendering of the industrial design.

    Note to AI: Please add the head slap emoji to the emoji choices.
    Solibageljoeybloggerblogmac_dogpscooter63dewmeStrangeDayswatto_cobrarazorpitcornchip
  • Reply 12 of 61
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,030member
    mike1 said:
    Scot1 said:
    Well that’s no good. Nobody wants the keyboard that close to the display. 

    OMG. It's an illustration for a patent application, not a rendering of the industrial design.

    Note to AI: Please add the head slap emoji to the emoji choices.
    Seriously! Including the people Liking his post as if that's the design Apple has chosen to use in a story about Apple using advancements in display technology to create a thinner profile on the iMac. I think it's likely to happen, but it would mean that the majority of the components would be in it's base, but I hope that's done via a stand so the display can at least be tilted up and down. I can see this being a beautiful design that harkens back to the original flatscreen iMac from the early aughts.
    repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 61
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,116member
    Seems a bit convoluted. Ever since I saw this, I was hoping this would be the next shape of the iMac, just without the mini LED and pricier features from the stand (like magnetism and rotation maybe, doesn't need to be toolessly attachable for an iMacs price) 


    williamhentropyseriamjhrepressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 61
    If they do what's shown in the patent, I'll be forced to abandon the iMac. My keyboard is currently located 13 inches below the bottom of my iMac Pro. I can't raise the keyboard without provoking RSI injury to my right arm, and I can't lower the display without exacerbating cervical disc problems.

    This would be the worst possible design for someone like me, the crap ergonomics of a laptop without the benefit of mobility.

    I think they're just covering bases here.
    edited January 2020 dysamoriawilliamlondondarkvaderwatto_cobrabaconstang
  • Reply 15 of 61
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,030member
    tipoo said:
    Seems a bit convoluted. Ever since I saw this, I was hoping this would be the next shape of the iMac, just without the mini LED and pricier features from the stand (like magnetism and rotation maybe, doesn't need to be toolessly attachable for an iMacs price) 


    Looking at this I'd like to see one of two things. Either the the stand hold all the components (which should all them to be easier to access) with the glass display not having much else, save for a Face ID camera and mic -or- for Apple to offer the iMac all behind the display and let users have the option of getting the XDR stand, no stand, or some basic iMac stand as an option.
    edited January 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 61
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 2,532member
    Soli said:
    tipoo said:
    Seems a bit convoluted. Ever since I saw this, I was hoping this would be the next shape of the iMac, just without the mini LED and pricier features from the stand (like magnetism and rotation maybe, doesn't need to be toolessly attachable for an iMacs price) 


    Looking at this I'd like to see one of two things. Either the the stand hold all the components (which should all them to be easier to access) with the glass display not having much else, save for a Face ID camera and mic -or- for Apple to offer the iMac all behind the display and let users have the option of getting the XDR stand, no stand, or some basic iMac stand as an option.
    So you want something similar to this?

    https://www.dell.com/en-ca/work/shop/dell-desktops-workstations/new-optiplex-7070-ultra-desktop/spd/optiplex-7070-ultra
    CloudTalkin
  • Reply 17 of 61
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,030member
    Soli said:
    tipoo said:
    Seems a bit convoluted. Ever since I saw this, I was hoping this would be the next shape of the iMac, just without the mini LED and pricier features from the stand (like magnetism and rotation maybe, doesn't need to be toolessly attachable for an iMacs price) 


    Looking at this I'd like to see one of two things. Either the the stand hold all the components (which should all them to be easier to access) with the glass display not having much else, save for a Face ID camera and mic -or- for Apple to offer the iMac all behind the display and let users have the option of getting the XDR stand, no stand, or some basic iMac stand as an option.
    So you want something similar to this?

    https://www.dell.com/en-ca/work/shop/dell-desktops-workstations/new-optiplex-7070-ultra-desktop/spd/optiplex-7070-ultra
    Pretty much, albeit with considerably less Dell-egance and a lot more elegance.
    edited January 2020 roundaboutnowrepressthisGG1watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 61
    Soli said:
    tipoo said:
    Seems a bit convoluted. Ever since I saw this, I was hoping this would be the next shape of the iMac, just without the mini LED and pricier features from the stand (like magnetism and rotation maybe, doesn't need to be toolessly attachable for an iMacs price) 


    Looking at this I'd like to see one of two things. Either the the stand hold all the components (which should all them to be easier to access) with the glass display not having much else, save for a Face ID camera and mic -or- for Apple to offer the iMac all behind the display and let users have the option of getting the XDR stand, no stand, or some basic iMac stand as an option.
    So you want something similar to this?

    https://www.dell.com/en-ca/work/shop/dell-desktops-workstations/new-optiplex-7070-ultra-desktop/spd/optiplex-7070-ultra
    I'll be darned, that Dell approach is kinda cool. What's not cool is that the CPU module is tied to the form factor, not stand alone, but I appreciate the integration.

    I think it would be better (more versatile) to come up with a monitor with stand that would tightly integrate a Mac mini type CPU (maybe a new form factor mini) where the mini could still be stand alone. Maybe the monitor is essentially a dock, so no exposed interconnecting cables. I'm assuming the glass/monitor component would be very sleek, with a design and performance that would hold up for many years. By keeping CPU separate, you could keep monitor and replace/upgrade CPU unit, but still have iMac style form factor. Also, if there were a Mac mini "Pro" module as an option, there would then be an iMac Pro equivalent.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 61
    Soli said:
    Soli said:
    tipoo said:
    Seems a bit convoluted. Ever since I saw this, I was hoping this would be the next shape of the iMac, just without the mini LED and pricier features from the stand (like magnetism and rotation maybe, doesn't need to be toolessly attachable for an iMacs price) 


    Looking at this I'd like to see one of two things. Either the the stand hold all the components (which should all them to be easier to access) with the glass display not having much else, save for a Face ID camera and mic -or- for Apple to offer the iMac all behind the display and let users have the option of getting the XDR stand, no stand, or some basic iMac stand as an option.
    So you want something similar to this?

    https://www.dell.com/en-ca/work/shop/dell-desktops-workstations/new-optiplex-7070-ultra-desktop/spd/optiplex-7070-ultra
    I guess so, albeit with considerably less Dell-egance and a lot more elegance.
    Ha! Well put!
    repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 61
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,728member
    bsbeamer said:
    Is it that hard to just release a Core i9 desktop with 128GB+ RAM options?  Update the Mini, offer a new MiniPro model, or something.  Could care less about these designs right now.  It's almost pathetic the MBP16,1 can outperform many of the current "desktop" options.  
    The current iMac will support 128GB of RAM.  You can also get much better i9 options than the MBP.  Did you not know this?
    repressthisPickUrPoisonwatto_cobra
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