The US Patent office granted a patent to Apple on Tuesday for a device that looks an awful lot like the Surface Book, Microsoft’s first-ever laptop with a detachable screen.
According to Patently Apple, the patent was filed way back in 2011, but it was only granted on Tuesday.
In the patent, the detachable screen is touch-sensitive, meaning it could be used as a tablet, just like the Surface Book’s touch display can also be used as a tablet.
The patent lists several ways the screen could be detached from the keyboard base, including manual mechanical latches, or automatic electronic switches, like the Surface Book’s button that electronically releases the screen.
The patent also says the keyboard base could include a bunch of hardware, like processors, batteries, ports for things like power or USB. It’s only a patent, but if an Apple laptop/tablet hybrid had all of these components, it would have more than the Surface Book’s keyboard base, which only contains an extra battery with an optional graphics processor; most of the Surface Book’s components live behind the display.
It’s also listed that Apple hybrid’s keyboard base and all of its components could continue to communicate with the screen even after being detached, including wireless power. That’s something Microsoft can’t boast about the Surface Book.
US Patent Office
Even though the patent was granted, it doesn’t mean we’ll see a laptop/tablet hybrid from Apple in the near future. Many patents, especially those from Apple, never make it into final products. If anything, it provides some insight as to what these tech companies are thinking about developing.
That said, laptops and tablets are being consolidated into one device more and more often, and it would seem unwise for Apple not to adapt.
Microsoft raised the bar for tablet expectations with its line of Surface Pro tablets and most recently the Surface Book. These computers run full versions of Windows 10 and all the important software, like Microsoft’s Office suite. Their screens also detach for tablet use, and the keyboard bases make for a more familiar and efficient productivity experience compared to the touchpads on most tablets, like the iPad.
Apple has also filed a patent, published Tuesday, for an “Ultra low travel keyboard” that’s compact and uses the Force Touch technology from some Apple laptop trackpads, as well as the new iPhone screens. It’s possible a keyboard like this could be used to work with a hybrid laptop like the one described above.