Apple looking to the past, working on how to put a Mac in a keyboard

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
Apple's Magic Keyboard may one day become more magical, and possibly a little thicker, as the company is working on ways to include an entire Mac within a keyboard.




Steve Jobs made a big of thing of how the little Mac mini was a BYODKM, or Bring Your Own Display, Keyboard, and Mouse, device. Now it seems Apple is looking at cutting that down even further, to when all you need to bring is your own display.

"Computer in an input device," is a newly-revealed patent application that proposes an entire Mac that's the size of a keyboard. And would also be a keyboard.

Reminiscent of countless 1980s computers like the Apple II, Vic 20, and the Sinclair QL, a computer made following this patent application would look like it was just a keyboard. It would be bigger or taller than a current Apple Magic Keyboard, but perhaps not by all that much.

"A strong demand for portable computing devices which also deliver high performance," says the patent application, "has driven miniaturization and reduction in size of the once bulky computing components used to power and drive the devices."

"Components, such as processors, batteries, memory, integrated circuits, and the like," it continues, "are now being manufactured within smaller footprints to provide lightweight and thin portable computing devices."

Apple argues that therefore "further tailoring of housing designs, shapes, and configurations to provide additional or enhanced device functionality" is possible - and desirable.

That's really the thrust of the entire patent application, as the majority of its more 130,000 words is detailing methods for ventilating such a keyboard to keep components cool.

There are, though, multiple references to making such a device even more portable. For one instance, Apple says that the "computing device can be foldable about an axis."

And for another, "where a user might desire the device... to have wireless internet connectivity, [it[ can include a cellular antenna."

Detail from the patent application showing the whole stack from keys at the top to computer components at the bottom
Detail from the patent application showing the whole stack from keys at the top to computer components at the bottom


That comes in a section that is really concerned the space available for components, more than it is about what the specific components would be. It does argue what they do not have to be, though: its own display.

"This device configuration can allow a user to carry a single computing device," says Apple, "that can provide a desktop computing experience at any location having one or more computer monitors."

This patent application is credited to three inventors, including Brett W. Degner. His previous related work includes a patent concerning making an iMac from one sheet of glass.

Read on AppleInsider
«13

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,388member
    So what is fundamentally different between this and the current Raspberry Pi 400, other than the Apple end products having higher end components? Well, that and the several hundred plus more dollars an Apple product would cost.
    darkvadertdknox
  • Reply 2 of 41
    So, 1 key breaks and you have to take the whole computer in?
    darkvaderpslicewilliamlondonblastdoorviclauyyc
  • Reply 3 of 41
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,202member
    How could Apple possibly think this was patentable. The article mentions several examples of prior designs. I want to add the Commodore 64 which is where I first ran into it. This is an OLD concept. Let me add as well that a friend of mine had a Commodore 64. Had two of them actually. The first one lasted a month before his son accidentally dumped a Coke into it and fried everything. This is the reason an all in one, computer-in-the-keyboard is a VERY bad idea. Keyboards catch the worst of what users drop. They need to be cheap and replaceable. Keep the CPU up where it is safe, crumb free, and dry.

    EDIT: Yes I know laptops are essentially the same thing. Somehow users seem to treat laptops better than desktop keyboards. Not sure why, but over the years I replaced a lot of keyboards that got destroyed by users in various creative ways. Wasn't nearly as much of a problem with a laptop.
    edited February 24 darkvaderwilliamlondontdknoxwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 41
    As others have pointed out, this is not innovative, should absolutely not be patentable, and is an incredibly stupid idea.

    We put up with the computer being under the keyboard in a laptop because there's not a better place to put it.  It results in the destruction of many laptops and a huge amount of lost data.  I've seen so many thousands of liquid damaged laptops over the years.  And, interestingly enough, the users most likely to spill something in their laptop seem to be the least likely to have a backup.

    Keyboards are fragile, and they are subject to frequent exposure to liquids, dust, dirt, food, and physical abuse.  They have a short lifespan.  Maybe that's the idea, Apple thinks the frequent destruction will sell more computers....
    williamlondonviclauyyc
  • Reply 5 of 41
    F_Kent_DF_Kent_D Posts: 98unconfirmed, member
    So, 1 key breaks and you have to take the whole computer in?
    Kinda like how many people do these days with a laptop? Not really that big a deal. I’ve seen a person or two at some point with their 27” iMac in the  store for repair so hauling a keyboard around isn’t much different. What about the Mac Mini, if something happens to it you’re taking “The whole computer” in for repair then as well. 
    retrogustowilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 41
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,023member
    DAalseth said:
    How could Apple possibly think this was patentable. The article mentions several examples of prior designs. I want to add the Commodore 64 which is where I first ran into it. This is an OLD concept. Let me add as well that a friend of mine had a Commodore 64. Had two of them actually. The first one lasted a month before his son accidentally dumped a Coke into it and fried everything. This is the reason an all in one, computer-in-the-keyboard is a VERY bad idea. Keyboards catch the worst of what users drop. They need to be cheap and replaceable. Keep the CPU up where it is safe, crumb free, and dry.

    EDIT: Yes I know laptops are essentially the same thing. Somehow users seem to treat laptops better than desktop keyboards. Not sure why, but over the years I replaced a lot of keyboards that got destroyed by users in various creative ways. Wasn't nearly as much of a problem with a laptop.

    Based on the limited info provide here, it appears that the "computer in a keyboard" is not what they are looking to patent. There are specific implementation ideas that might be patented.

    Apple argues that therefore "further tailoring of housing designs, shapes, and configurations to provide additional or enhanced device functionality" is possible - and desirable. That's really the thrust of the entire patent application, as the majority of its more 130,000 words is detailing methods for ventilating such a keyboard to keep components cool.
    There are, though, multiple references to making such a device even more portable. For one instance, Apple says that the "computing device can be foldable about an axis."
    williamlondontdknoxthtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 41
    Depending on what exactly you do, or innovate, it could be patentable. And you often file patents that are questionable just to have a stake. It seems like a worthwhile place to investigate future form factors. Using TV’s or any monitor seems handy. I think it’s silly to not explore ideas fully, look at engineering changes and the state of current tech to see what’s possible. I’d be weary of dismissing ideas just because someone tried it before, perhaps not doing it well, or tech has changed to allow a new aspect to radically change what’s possible.
    patchythepiratewatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 41
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,388member
    Don’t get me wrong, the keyboard-computer is a great tool for certain applications, but I fail to understand how the nth iteration of the same basic concept could be a patentable product. The Raspberry Pi 400 is a very compelling piece of kit for $99 considering it can drive two 4K monitors and/or TVs via HDMI and is fully usable as a basic browsing, office applications, learning to program, learning to build simple smart devices, try out different operating systems, etc., kind of tool. The whole Raspberry Pi education, maker, and tinkering ecosystem is quite amazing and one of the shining stars of technology feeding the educational spectrum in a highly compelling way with minimal cost.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 41
    So, a laptop without a screen that requires convincing the average person its not just an expensive keyboard. Fail.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 10 of 41
    Don't forget the venerable BBC Micro as another example of a device like this.
    Sorry, Apple this had been done before. But wait... those patents have probably expired. Even so... come on Tim Cook, your guys can do better than this.

    williamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 41
    Depending on what exactly you do, or innovate, it could be patentable. And you often file patents that are questionable just to have a stake. It seems like a worthwhile place to investigate future form factors. Using TV’s or any monitor seems handy. I think it’s silly to not explore ideas fully, look at engineering changes and the state of current tech to see what’s possible. I’d be weary of dismissing ideas just because someone tried it before, perhaps not doing it well, or tech has changed to allow a new aspect to radically change what’s possible.
    Agreed. It doesn’t seem that hard to seal the top off to avoid liquid damage from above, for example, or at least to limit that damage to the keyboard component. Given what they’ve been able to do with the M1 MacBook Air and iPad Pro, I’d say they could probably even seal up the sides and bottom and still have a very capable machine. 

    What I wonder is if there are enough use cases in which this approach is strongly preferable to that of a MacBook Air, an iPad that can be paired with a Bluetooth keyboard, or a Mac Mini. I’d consider buying one, but a Mac Mini would do the same job just about as well.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 41
    Apple recently migrated the network adapter into the iMac's power brick. Along that path, I suggest that Apple move the entire computer into the power brick. 
    dewmejdiamond
  • Reply 13 of 41
    Buy a 16" Macbook Pro with an 8TB hard drive.  Tear the screen off with your bare hands.  Done. :)

    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 41
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,388member
    Apple recently migrated the network adapter into the iMac's power brick. Along that path, I suggest that Apple move the entire computer into the power brick. 
    ... which pretty much describes the Mac mini, Apple TV, and many other "mini" personal computers already on the market. The small form factor Intel NUCs are almost like this, but they have a separate power brick that's nearly as large as the PC itself.

    We can also talk about the PC-on-an-HDMI-stick form factor PCs.

    I'm all for alternative form factor computers, especially if you have a really nice HDTV or monitor with a spare HDMI port. Having a full PC with a real browser, email, camera/mic, and productivity apps available with a 10-foot interface (sofa compatible) is a rather pleasant way to utilize an open HDMI port on a high res TV.  I'm currently using a Mac mini, an Intel NUC, and a Raspberry Pi 4B in these type of sofa-based (or La-Z-Boy) applications. Works great.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 41
    A nowadays Commodore C64.
    designr
  • Reply 16 of 41
    It’s worth pointing out, as many have done before, that this is a patent application,  not the plans for a forthcoming product.
    mike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 41
    This actually could be very useful for hospitals, clinics, or other businesses where cost and security/privacy are factors. In a hospital setting it could also reduce pathogen spread by having one device per person, rather than the current situation which is basically a computer orgy, with dozens of people using the same computer each day. It's also a huge pain in the ass to log into secure networks (eg hospital networks), with a long authentication process that looks like it was invented in the 90s, which could easily be fixed by a quick Touch ID press. It would be so nice not to have to use crappy windows computers at every hospital and clinic I work at. Save me, Apple!
    edited February 24 Japheybadmonkwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 41
    It could be a computer keyboard on one side and a musical keyboard on the flip side. It’s gold Jerry! Gold!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 41
    Q: If the rumored goggles are able to be a whole display(s) of any size, what would one need to make it a very usable laptop replacement? 

    A: a keyboard, maybe with a "whole" computer built into it. 

    In such a setup, which of the 2 devices would need the bigger battery? The "keymac." Goggles would be in a lower power, display-only mode. 

    Hmmmmm.
    edited February 24 patchythepiratewatto_cobraDetnator
  • Reply 20 of 41
    Yes, by all means, please reduce upgradability and repairability even more than they already are.
    williamlondon
Sign In or Register to comment.