Is Apple Planning Touchscreen iMacs and MacBooks?

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Apple filed a patent back in January outlining an all-in-one iMac that would function as a standard mouse-and-keyboard computer when the screen was positioned at an upright angle and, when tilted toward the user, would turn into a touchscreen computer running in “a low-resolution input mode, such as a touch-based interface.”

In more technical terms, this patent outlines the following:

“Transitioning between a high-resolution input mode, such as a mouse-based interface, and a low-resolution input mode, such as a touch-based interface, is described. A change of orientation of a touch screen between a first orientation and a second orientation is detected. Transitioning between the two input modes and corresponding user interfaces (UIs) is based on the detected change of orientation.”

Website Patently Apple seems to believe the “low-resolution input mode” means that the machine would switch over to running the same iOS interface found in the iPhone and iPad, though the actual patent makes no such mention of Apple’s mobile operating system.

In layman’s terms it basically says that when the screen is upright, you use the mouse to click all the little on-screen icons and the keyboard to type. When the screen is tilted into an angled position, the interface switches to show larger icons and folders than can be easily touched with a finger.

touchui

See the File, View, Insert, and Tools menu there? That’s not found in the iOS system used on the iPhone and iPad. The image title “The iMac UI when in iOS Mode” was added by Patently Apple.

The patent describes a similar method to be used with a touchscreen notebook wherein the interface would change to a touch-friendly input mode when the screen was rotated around and laid flat against the keyboard, very similar to current convertible touchscreen tablet notebooks.

There are two important things to note. First, despite what you may read elsewhere about this patent, there’s no indication that the plan is to switch between a full version of OS X and the mobile iOS when the screen is tilted. The patent simply indicates that it’ll likely switch between OS X and a touch-friendly version of OS X.

Second, it’s just a patent. Companies file patents all the time. There’s no telling if it would actually ever make it to market. Would it be cool? Maybe! But just because a patent is filed doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing.

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