Apple Wins a Patent for a Futuristic 3D Stereoscopic Display & More
Apple's Next Iteration of MagSafe May Include Fiber Optics

Apple Wins Multiple Touch & MacBook Tablet Patents

1 - cover - apple wins multiple key touch and virtual keyboard patents - nov 2010 
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




Technically Speaking


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."


2 - apple, api for scrolling operations nov 2010 

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.


3 - Apple hardware example of a macbook tablet - nov 30 2010 - Figs, 33a,b,c 

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.


Update Xtra II - Ausus launches notebook Tablet that resembles Apple's patented Concept - Jan 2011 

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.


4 - Apple wins a patent for iOS virtual keyboard nov 2010 

Apple's touch-screen virtual keyboard really shines on the iPad as we get closer to a full two handed keyboard as seen below.


5 - Apple's virtual iPad keyboard - example of virutual keyboard 

Technically Speaking


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.


6 - apple wins patent for cursor positioning with a finger contact on a touch display - nov 2010 

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.


Technically Speaking


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.  


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


Community Sites Covering our Original Report: MacSurfer, Apple Investor, Google Reader, Techmeme, MacDailyNews, MacStories, TUAW, Lenta Russia, CrunchGear, MacPlus France, Engadget Spain, Cult of Mac, Spiegel Germany, Geeky Gadgets, ModMyi, Applesfera Spain, Calacanis, Mac Life Germany, Thaimac Thailand, and more.  



A few comments have come in to me privately about this patent that generallly take the position that they like the idea but hate the design. That's just fine being that a patent is about presenting a concept and not an absolute design. A design patent would be for a final design. A patent application is about the nuts and bolts of what the device will do or how it will function or a system it promotes.

So conceptually, Apple is thinking about a convertable notebook. We all know that whatever they create will be 20X better than the concept design. The iPhone's original concept had the phone at about 3" thick. That's not what we ended up with. So always bear in mind that designs presented in an "application" (and then a granted patent) are there to simply convey an idea or general concept.

Instead of creating another size for the iPad (leaving the sweet 9" spot), I would prefer to see this MacBook/iPad at 11-13". Yes, it will weight more, but that's the sacrifice you have to make to have a full-blown tablet AND notebook in the same device (read Matt's post above).

All things considered, I'm optimistic that we will see such kind of device maybe in 2012. MacOS X 10.7 "Lion" is all about bridging the iOS-style with classic personal computing. Why not bridging the hardware as well?

I guess this might be the future MacBook Air... a hybrid device between desktop/notebook-paradigm computers and tablet-paradigm computers.

Kate from Russia states:

"А снизу, чтоб ножки еще выдвигались и получится как бы миниатюрный столик с компьютером."

The Google translation:

"A bottom to forward another foot and get like a miniature table with a computer."

Kate, that's a little off-topic but it's an interesting twist nonetheless. Thanks for your comment. (Jack P.)

I never thought I would say this but that dell looks cool

I personally would love a combo laptop/iPad. First, you know it will beautifully made. Second, I have the MBA 11" that now competes with my iPad for laptime. I can easily imagine the two morphing into a product creation and consumption device. Bring it on!!!

Matt Macari

As I type this on my iPad...

The thought of a convertible MacBook may require the creativity only found in Apple to be a success being that this form factor has failed miserably in other markets due to (1) the lack of a robust mechanical means to transition between formats, (2) the weight and form factor resulting, and (3) battery life.

Perhaps it will take Apple's innovation to overcome these obstacles.

I will be cautiously optimistic in the meantime :-)

@ Matt - I appreciate your honest opinion Matt.

However, no one is saying to kill the iPad. The idea is to add one additional configuration. What some of us want, Matt, is to not have to buy 3 devices when one will do. That's simplicity for some of us. I don't want a desktop, notebook, iPod, iPad, iPhone. That's what Apple would like all of us to do, for sure. But that's not realistic at Apple's higher prices. Unless you're wealthy Matt, the "rest of us" would prefer "practical" over "elegant" any day, or at least a bit of both.

I think that Apple has the smarts to this right if they so choose to. Most of us work and play and a combo unit is what a lot of us want. Though knowing Apple, Matt, they'll likely price it out of reach anyways. So you may get your way anyways, ha!


I don't think Apple will create a pad/notebook combo--that is, a device with moving parts. Look at the cell phones with slide out keyboards--they eventually break. In addition, look at the success of the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad--people want simplicity. That's where Apple shines. Making a simple device that is powerful with the fewest options/configurations.

Keep in mind that the iPad is for content absorption and a desktop (or laptop) is for content creation. To combine the two into one device will drain the battery, or lack display quality (not withstanding Apple's recent patents).

The iPad creates content for most general stuff--email, notes, Pages, meetings, presentation. The iPad may need a few more hardware updates but a HW keyboard and other moving parts will make it no longer a simple, elegant device that sells because of simplicity.

Apple has struggled to find simplicity for many years. It seems micro tech and speed have caught up to allow for that design.

I would LOVE a MacBook Pro/iPad combo. The slider design looks MUCH more stable than the convertible laptop where the screen is only connected by a 1" flip hinge! Come on, Apple! Do it!!!

Bring it on!

I need to power type = notebook. I like reading and the iPad is better for that. Jobs opened this pandora's box. Let's see if they have the balls to step in and actually compete. Yes I'd seriously consider a combination MacBook + iPad device with 4G next year. Data rules!

Apple would have to get aggressive price wise here but I think that they're up to it. I agree, I'd like a combo unit too and also have a hard time choosing between a notebook and iPad. Until library books are available for the iPad, it's kind of useless as an ebook reader for students. And casual games do nothing for me. I like games like Call of Duty. The one ID game isn't enough that's for sure. So this whole category has got to find its footing first before I dive in. But it looks promising.

Yes, I would definitely buy the Macbook-to-iPad if:

1) it is lightweight

2) great battery life

3) sturdiness of the screen (love the design of the screen but could that handle a lot of back and forth between operating systems?)

4) allows to switch from full OSX to iOS.

5) Doesn't cost more than $1400 (not likely)

I'm not in the market for an Apple portable until about a year from now, but I really like the design above.

Ya I'm one that has done that back and forth tango trying to decide which device to buy. I'll likely go with the iPad this year, but if I had an option, I think I'd go with a combo unit. Of course I'd have to see it, but concept wise, it's got my attention. Yup, that 11 inch macbook air unit is sure sweet. Just a little too expensive. But add in a tablet as a 2 for 1 deal, and bingo, you'll have me dishing out coin.

The comments to this entry are closed.