In a second wave of granted patents published by the US Patent and Trademark Office for Apple Inc. today, we see that they've won several key touch related patents including two relating to virtual keyboards. Yet the one patent that stood out above all, in my view, was a patent that secretly buried a future device that Apple has their eye on: a convertible Macbook-to-iPad-like device. This is definitely going to be the killer device category in the coming years and we could only hope that Apple's killer device goes from patent illustration to reality in the not-too-distant future.
Granted Patent: API for Scrolling Operations (Includes Convertible MacBook Tablet Examples)
Apple has won a patent relating to an API for scrolling operations on a touchscreen which is described in Apple's patent abstract below. Yet the bigger news perhaps, is one of the devices that Apple envisioned their scrolling technology and API applying to. A MacBook that would convert to an iPad-styled device. In this configuration, the display is acting like an iPad in horizontal mode, which is what Steve Jobs stated was the ideal position for a multi-touch device. In a convertible unit, it meets his own specified criteria. So don't get fooled with the gorilla arm visual that he presented during his last keynote. That doesn't apply here, in the least.
Apple's convertible notebook was first revealed in our July 2008 report. As you could see in the video below, Dell is getting ahead of Apple with a convertible notebook. Additonally, Acer is introducing a landscape connector for their coming tablet which shows where their design is headed: yes, a convertible notebook; and HP's working on a completely revamped notebook-tablet using the winning combination of Windows 7 and WebOS. Why is this a winning combo? Because it will run business apps and iTunes all the while being able to run simple apps and double as a phone!
This is definitely going to be a killer device category once the foibles are worked out of each. It's a design I'm convinced will be a leader in the not-too-distant future. It's not just because I'm an ex marketing guy who thinks this is going to fly, it's because of some of the feedback that I've heard from customers at my local Apple Store this past weekend. I was in the store the other day checking out the 11" MacBook Air. I kept imagining this wonder in the form of a convertible unit and only wished it was available now. I then began hearing some of the customers talking to the Apple reps and saying things like: I want the MacBook Air, but I like the iPad, which is best? This was more common than you think.
You could tell that there was a real split in what adult customers wanted. You'd see them going from the iPad table to the MacBook Air table and back. While I gave up and bought a new iMac, my hope was that when I'm due for an iPad next Christmas that Apple just may have this little wonder ready to roll out. Is this a wish or a possibility? Both, as the patent definitely shows us that Apple has their eye on this type of device. Am I alone here or would you buy such a device from Apple? Speak up in the comment area below.
The Competition Strikes First
Apple's patent abstract states that "at least certain embodiments of the present disclosure include an environment with user interface software interacting with a software application. A method for operating through an application programming interface (API) in this environment includes transferring a set bounce call. The method further includes setting at least one of maximum and minimum bounce values. The set bounce call causes a bounce of a scrolled region in an opposite direction of a scroll based on a region past an edge of the scrolled region being visible in a display region at the end of the scroll."
Apple's patent FIG. 2 illustrates details of an API in flow chart form according to certain teachings of the present disclosure; FIG. 3 illustrates likewise details an API in flow chart form; and patent FIG. 4 is a schematic diagram illustrating one type of embodiment of a user interface touch screen device that the technology and API apply to.
Apple's patent FIGS. 33A to 33-C illustrate another example of a device according to at least certain embodiments of the disclosure. FIG. 33A illustrates a laptop device 3300 with a keyboard 3302, a body 3304, a display frame 3306, and a display 3308. The laptop device could be converted into a tablet device as illustrated in FIG. 33B and FIG. 33C. FIG. 33B illustrates the conversion of the laptop device into a tablet device. An edge of a display frame containing a display is slide within the body across the top of a keyboard until forming a tablet device as illustrated in FIG. 33C. The tablet device with a display 2362 and a display frame 3366 rests on top of a body 3360.
Although the claims don't technically cover the convertible notebook, the fact is that Apple's patent makes the following statement so that it could be covered: "In the foregoing specification, the disclosure has been described with reference to specific exemplary embodiments thereof. It will be evident that various modifications may be made thereto without departing from the broader spirit and scope of the disclosure as set forth in the following claims. The specification and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded in an illustrative sense rather than a restrictive sense.
Apple credits as the inventors of the Granted Patent titled "Application programming interfaces for scrolling operations," originally filed in Q1 2007 as the original iPhone was first introduced.
Update January 4, 2011: According to an Engadget report, Asus is scheduled to launch a notebook tablet this spring that resembles Apple's patented concept.
Granted Patent: Activating Virtual Keys of a Touch-Screen Virtual Keyboard
Apple has been granted a patent related to their touch-screen virtual keyboard that is available on all iOS devices.
Apple's touch-screen virtual keyboard really shines on the iPad as we get closer to a full two handed keyboard as seen below.
Apple's patent abstract states that "a method of operating a touch screen to activate one of a plurality of virtual keys is provided. A touch location is determined based on location data pertaining to touch input on the touch screen, wherein the touch input is intended to activate one of the plurality of virtual keys. Each of the plurality of virtual keys has a set of at least one key location corresponding to it. For each of the virtual keys, a parameter (such as physical distance) is determined for that virtual key that relates the touch location and the set of at least one key location corresponding to that virtual key. The determined parameters are processed to determine one of the virtual keys. For example, the determined one virtual key may be the virtual key with a key location (or more than one key location, on average) being closest to the touch location. A signal is generated indicating activation of the determined one of the virtual keys.
Apple credits Bartley Andre, Bas Ording and Greg Christie as the inventors of this virtual keyboard patent which was originally filed in Q3 2005.
Granted Patent: Methods for Determining a Cursor Position from a Finger Contact with a Touch Screen Display
In this newly granted patent, Apple covers the technology relating to smaller virtual keyboards found on the iPod touch and the iPhone. The patent generally relates to portable electronic devices that adaptively determine a cursor position from a finger contact with a touch screen display and then perform operations according to the cursor position.
Apple's patent FIG. 5 is a flow diagram illustrating a process for determining a cursor position from a finger contact with a touch screen.
Apple's patent points to the kinds of applications that their technology covers, including functions such as telephoning, video conferencing, e-mailing, instant messaging, blogging, digital photographing, digital videoing, web browsing, digital music playing, and/or digital video playing. Instructions for performing these functions may be included in a computer readable storage medium or other computer program product configured for execution by one or more processors.
Apple notes that one aspect of the invention involves a computer-implemented method performed by a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display. The portable device detects a contact area of a finger with the touch screen display and then determines a first position associated with the contact area. The cursor position of the finger contact is determined, at least in part, based on: the first position, one or more distances between the first position and one or more of the user interface objects; and one or more activation susceptibility numbers, each associated with a respective user interface object in the plurality of user interface objects.
Apple credits Senior VP of iPhone Software Scott Forstall and team members Bas Ording and Greg Christie as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,843,427 originally filed in Q3 2007
Other Granted Patents Published Today
On this date, Apple was also granted serveral other patents, including one for their power connector called MagSafe, another for the MacBook's improved power management and another for iTunes Producer. Apple's iTunes Producer is the program that Apple created so as to allow music makers the ability to upload their songs to the iTunes Music Store. Lastly, Apple has been granted a patent for antennas for handheld devices with conductive bezels.
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