Apple Patents Point to Future MacBooks with IPS & Touch Displays
Apple Wins Major Touch Technology Patent along with Patents for the Original iPod, iPod touch, Graphic Gradients, Shake & More

The Mother Lode: Welcome to the iMac Touch

1 Final Cover - Apple iMac Touch with Flex Base - Collage 
While most of us were getting ready for the iPad's arrival in January and Patently Apple hard at work preparing our major series called the Tablet Prophecies, a major iMac Touch patent was being quietly published in Europe. And while some of the graphic figures of today's patent did slip out in Europe, we were never able to verify whether they were legitimate or not. Well, today we finally get to post the Mother Lode of all information concerning the iMac Touch and it's absolutely brilliant! Ironically we had just posted a report on Saturday titled "Apple Patents Point to Future MacBooks with IPS & Touch Displays" when we discovered the European Filing. The naysayers will have to eat crow on this one, because Apple's method of transitioning from OS X to iOS is clearly outlined for both the iMac and MacBook – and it's a grand slam home run. Imagine having an iMac on your desktop one minute and a gigantic iPad the next. Imagine playing iGames on this dream machine - Wow! Imagine reading a double-page book on this - Unbelievable! Apple takes the mystery out of how OS X could finally co-exist with iOS on a Mac and you've got to see this one to believe it.


General Overview of the Patent


While touch-based input is well suited to many applications, conventional styles of input, such as a mouse/keyboard input may be preferred in other applications. Therefore it may be desirable for some devices to provide for touch-based input as well as mouse/keyboard input. However, a UI being displayed by the display device during a touch-based input mode might not be suited for use during a mouse/keyboard input mode, and vice versa.


The foregoing could be addressed by providing transitioning between modes of input, for example, transitioning between touch-based input and mouse/keyboard based input, by sensing a change in orientation of a touch screen display. For example, an accelerometer in the display could sense the force of gravity along an axis, and the measured force could be used to determine an angle of the display with respect to the ground (i.e. the plane perpendicular to the direction of the force of gravity). A transition between input modes could be performed when the vertical angle (tilt) of the display crosses a predetermined angle.


In another example, a rotation sensor could be mounted in an adjustable stand of the display. The rotation sensor could measure a rotation position of the stand, such as an angle between the base of the stand and a hinged arm that connects the base and the display. The measured rotation position could be used to determine the orientation of the display.


In another example, the display could include touch sensor area located where a user typically grasps the display to change the display's orientation. In this case, detection of touch in these areas could be used in addition to orientation information from one or more other sensors, such as accelerometers, position sensors, etc. to aid in the detection of a change in orientation of the display.


The change in the orientation of the display could be detected, for example, by a processor based on sensor data from the sensor(s). When the processor determines that the orientation of the display has crossed a predetermined threshold, e.g., the orientation of the display has changed from a touch input mode to a keyboard mouse input mode, or vice versa, the processor could activate a transition process.


In one example transition from a high-resolution input mode UI to a low-resolution input mode UI, certain items display in the high-resolution input mode UI could appear to "slide off" the edges of the display. A menu bar and menu bar items, a dock and dock items, directory items, scrollbars, and the mouse pointer may appear to move toward the closest edge of the screen and continue to move off of the screen until they disappear from view, such that they aren't displayed in the low-resolution input mode UI. Other items displayed in the high-resolution input mode UI may appear to increase in size, for example, the display may appear to zoom-in, such that the items are displayed at a larger size in the low-resolution input mode UI.


To clarify, the high/low-resolution input shouldn't be confused with high/low resolution display. The latter refers to the level of fineness (resolution) at which an image could be displayed; the former refers to the general level of fineness at which a user input could be detected and processed. One measure of input resolution may be based on, for example, the size of selectable icons, buttons, sliders and other input items and/or the distance between input items that an input method requires for reliable detection of an input. For example, a high-resolution input method may be able to discern whether a user is selecting one or the other of two very small icons that are displayed close to each other, while a low resolution may not be able to determine which of the two icons the user is trying to select.


Transitioning from Keyboard/Mouse to Touch-Based Modes


First, Apple's patent describes the transition process this way. When the iMac's display is oriented upright and relatively far from you – the keyboard/mouse input mode could be selected and basically you're operating in OS X mode.


2 - iMac Touch with Flex Stand - in OS X Mode 

Then to switch to a touch-based input, you'll change the orientation of the iMac's display so as to make touching the screen easier and more natural. For example, to enter touch input, you'll want to pull the iMac's screen closer to you while pushing the display screen down flat as if you were going to read a book, states the patent. In this orientation you'll be able to select a corresponding UI which should translate to using iOS. In fact, the transition is really an automated process.


3 -iMac in iOS Mode 

The transition is activated by the accelerometer as earlier described. What's new here is that you'll be able to control the threshold determining when the iMac's transition from OS X to iOS will occur. Meaning, you could for example, set the threshold angle to 60 degrees to call up iOS or at 90 degrees or higher to recall OS X mode.


As for what kind of applications that'll run this new beast, you could always check out this patent that clearly shows you some of the contemplated apps that somewhat reflect elements of iLife and beyond.


The Adjustable Stand of a Future iMac Touch


 4 - Adjustable Stand of a future iMac Touch

While Apple will sexy up the design of the stand for sure, the mechanics described in the patent include a lower base (309), an arm (311), an attachment post (313), a base hinge (317). Apple's patent Figures 3 and 4 above includes an upper rotation sensor (319) at post hinge (317) and a lower rotation sensor (321) at base hinge (315).


New Touch Sensors on the Body of the iMac


When you want to make the switch from OS X to iOS, you'll be grabbing the iMac where the patent figures show patent points 505 left and right. These points are advanced touch sensors that will send touch detection signals to the system's processor (not shown). When the processor receives touch detection signals from the touched sensor areas 505 followed by a change in orientation, the OS transition takes place.


5 - iMac Touch - New Sensors to Activate OS Transition Modes 

The iMac UI When in iOS Mode


6 - the iMac Touch in iOS Mode 

The iMac Touch System Overview


7 - the iMac Touch System Overview 

The iMac Touch system overview describes an advanced multi-touch system. An interesting tid-bit is that you'll be able to operate a peripheral device couple to the iMac Touch such as an iPhone and be able to answer a phone call, place a phone call, change settings of the iPhone and so forth.


The MacBook Tablet


Apple's patent figure 11 is obviously a representation of a MacBook that could transition into a tablet and in doing so takes on the transition process as described pertaining to the iMac Touch. Meaning, as the display of the MacBook is turned into tablet mode – OS X will instantly transition into iOS mode.


8 - The MacBook Tablet Clearly Described 

The patent clarifies this by stating that "the display could also be oriented for touch input. For example, the display 1130 may be rotated and laid flat against the keyboard 1134, with the backside of the display facing down against the keyboard so that the display screen is facing up, in an orientation for touch input."


Update:  Below you'll find patent FIG. 6 which clearly illustrates that in "Desktop Mode," the "UI" will be a current version of the Mac OS: OS X.  This desktop is used with a mouse (#619) and keyboard.  


UPDATE - Fig 6 - Mac OS demo

Apple's patent came to light at the World Intellectual Property Organization on January 14, 2010 while most of us were getting hyped up for the arrival of the iPad. The name of the patent is "Transitioning between Modes of Input" and published in 2010 under number 006210 A1.


I think that this is simply brilliant and I'd buy one of these if they came out for this Christmas as was rumored earlier this year in Taiwan. Now it's your turn. What are your thoughts on the proposed iMac Touch and MacBook Tablet?


Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for further details. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.


For more information on Touch Technology related to future Macs, see our new Patents: Mac Touch Section. 


Update August 23, 2010 - 8:20 PM Mountain Time: Here's a copy of the DigiTimes report. You must be a member of DigiTimes to view older material. To make it easy, we just created a graphic for you to verify the news/rumor concerning a touch-based iMac due for release in 2010.


Community Members Covering our Report

Day 1: MacSurfer, Apple Investor News, Google Reader,  Lacy Ice + Heat, MacDailyNews, 9 to 5 Mac, MacRumors,  Mac1 Norway, MacStories + Techmeme, + Reddit, TheNextWeb, OS X Daily, Multitouch Fans, MacDaddyNews, Apfeltalk Germany, MacPlus France, + Macworld Sweden, Gizmodo, Mashable, The New York Times,  Apple Scoop, SlashGear, Applesfera Spanish, CrunchGear,  Startup Meme,  Obsessable,  Apple4us China, Engadget,  Redmond Pie,   Maclalala2 Japan,  Techie Buzz, Bloomberg Businessweek ,  Geek Smack, BlogsDNA, VentureBeat,  Calacanis,  CBS and more.


Day 2: Forbes, CNN, ZDNet, PC Pro UK, The Telegraph UK, Trusted Reviews, Cult of MacAppletell, Fast Company, Fudzilla, Ubergizmo, Pocket-lint, Electricpig UK, Slashdot, Nu Netherlands,  I4U News, PCWorld, SuperApple Czech Republic, VozExpress Vietnam, Hear+See Netherlands, MacWereld Netherlands, Idealize Netherlands, Mac Life Germany, Stowe Boyd, AppAdvice,  TG Daily, Core77, Business Insider, Il Sole 24 Ore Italy, T3 UK, EL PAIS Madrid Spain, ITPro Portal UK, ConfigurarEquipos Spain, 20 Minuten Switzerland, Baixaki Brazil, TUAW, L' essential Luxembourg, Melamorsicata Italy, Calling All Geeks, TekTok Canada, Kompas Indonesian, ITworld, PC Tuning Czech Republic, MacKozer Poland, MacTechNews Germany, Macworld UK, Baidu China,  MacVN Vietnam, de Volkskrant Netherlands, Macworld Brazil, altommac Sweden, The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, Infosfera Brazil, iEvolution Alberta Canada, eWeek, The Register (RegHardware) UK, The Marker Israel, C/NET Japan, The Mac Observer, Spiegel Germany, Business Journal, Kurier Austria, NUzakeliik Netherlands, Science Compulenta Russia, BBC Tech Brief UK, Tom's Hardware Italy, Bug Online Hungary, TechRepublic, Sol Sapo Portugal, Webwereld Netherlands, Gizmodo Japan, Macworld Spain, NouvelObs France, Javox, The Russians used a Pencil Feber Sweden, One More Thing Netherlands,  Peru21 Peru, PCLab Poland, Smash Romania, The Motley Fool, Internetua Russia, Tek Sapo Portugal, Appleblog Hungary, Consomac France, InfoWorld, siliconrepublic Ireland, and more.


No more Sites will be added to the list above. Thanks to all who participated. 


Update: DigiTimes Rumor/News:


IMac Touch news, rumor - update oct 1, 2010 digitimes source 



ipad´s to heavy... iphone´s screen´s to small... iMac 27 is to large ... so a 22 imac touch and a 11 inch macbook air touch would blend right in.

the most tricky part is on the soft-w-side.. how will you find files and on which OS? The approach would have to be "ease-of-use" for techy-boy as well as for grandmom ...

We could however, expect something "slick" for Jobs to unveil at a future keynote. :-) bless ya´/stefan j.

Fully enabling Mac OS X to do iOS-like touch input is a no brainer.

We need to be able to run iOS applications on Mac OS X. They don't need an A4 processor. Simply implement an A4 emulator like Rosetta used to emulate PowerPC. In Dashboard is one way; standalone apps is better.

We need a tablet that runs OS X. It's a huge hole between iPad and Macbook that needs to be filled. We need a Macbook with a screen that twists and folds to a tablet - with full emulation for iOS apps.

Apple desktops and laptops will (probably) support both iOS and OS X. That means users will be able to run all those 250,000 apps on their Apple laptops and desktops! That would be very very powerful. Something that Microsoft and Google (or HP or Nokia) will not be able to duplicate (or compete with) in the foreseeable future. Wow!

Does this mean that Apple desktops and laptops will get an A4 chip addition?!

The fact that you could plug your iPhone into the iMac touch and make calls and take calls from the iPhone confirms to me at least, that the touch OS referred to in the patent or touch UI is iOS without the marketing moniker of course (as iOS is very recent). It seems to be a seamless interaction between iPhone and iMac touch, according to the patent. I see where you make the connection to iOS. Very good.

@ Colton

If you could hold on until October, you might see this. But if not, then it could be 2011. I would hang on for one extra month when the Mac line up gets set for Christmas. But if September is your deadline, then buy now Colton.

So is a touchscreen MacBook going to be released September 2011??? If not then I'm just going to get one this September.

It could happen, to compete with Windows.

Glad to see Apple continues to innovate

sounds good.

Can you imagine the battery life iOS can get on a MacBook battery? It'll truly be a dream come true.

What is almost certainly going to happen with the Mac is Apple will transition Mac OS to touch. Probably with Mac OS 11.

A key part of this transition is all the apps will have to have Cocoa interfaces. Because then the system can do things like scale up the interface and the apps inherit those changes. Notice that Apple killed 64-bit Carbon and has given 3rd party developers plenty of time during the Snow Leopard era to rebuild their apps in 64-bit Cocoa.

It's very exciting, but it is definitely a Mac OS thing, not an iOS thing.

There is a brilliance to Apple's consumer/pro interface split that is certainly not going away. It's a major, major advantage.

Thanks for bringing this patent to us.

The patent talks about allowing the iPhone (cell phone) to work with the touch UI but not necessarily with the other UI (OSX). The changing UI shows one illustation that it's a mouse oriented UI and the other mode as noted above is clearly a touch based UI ... compaitble with working with the iPhone. So yes, I see two OSs and it makes sense to have both on one platform. Unless Apple announces anything differently, it's a no brainer.

As I read it, the patent is not concerned with switching operating systems (which would be ridiculous) but rather with switching "input modes." Am I wrong?

@ Narg

Apple's flex arm that triggers one OS to switch to another isn't done by any other PC OEM today. Thank you for your honest opinion, but it's blind to the technology that the patent presents.

How can Apple patent this? It's already been used in so many other computers already.

The obvious way to transition between Mac OS and iOS? Replace Dashboard with iOS. Done.

Hey Jack,

Good catch!


Can you imagine video editing on something like this?

My thoughts... it's genius... I love the idea of grabbing the screen to get stuck in to iOS and pushing it away to go OS X.
So simple when you think about it; but no other tech company seems to 'get it' quite like Apple.

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