Apple wins a Patent for a next-gen hinged keyboard iPad accessory with multiple modes that could possibly double as a Hybrid Device
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to a new hinged iPad keyboard accessory that provides multiple installation modes that could deliver superior flexibility for users. One particular patent figure would strongly suggest that the iPad could take on a macOS (or macOS-like) user interface as presented below.
Could Apple be considering a hybrid iPad/MacBook device? While Apple's patent suggests it's a possibility, philosophically speaking, Apple has always refused to consider such a hybrid OS device. Only time will tell if Apple's position will ever change.
On the hardware front, Apple notes that in one embodiment the new accessory device for iPad includes a base portion and a coupling mechanism. The base portion may include a keyboard having a set of electromechanical keys. The coupling mechanism may be positioned along a side of the keyboard and may be configured to rotatably couple the base portion to the tablet computing device having a touchscreen display.
The accessory device may include a coupling mechanism for releasably coupling the base portion of the accessory device to a tablet computing device in multiple different installation modes. The coupling mechanism may define an attachment interface for retaining the tablet computing device to the base portion. The attachment interface may be at least partially defined by a body section of the coupling mechanism.
Apple's patent FIGS. 1A-1F below illustrate a system (#100) that includes a an iPad (#110) and an accessory device (#120) that are capable of being releasably coupled together in multiple installation modes as presented below.
The accessory device includes a base portion #122 and a coupling mechanism #130. The coupling mechanism is capable of releasably coupling the iPad to the base portion of the accessory device; FIG. 1E illustrates that the iPad could be reversed with the display on the backside when the user folds it down over the keyboard.
As shown in FIG. 7C below, the magnetic element #780b may move between a first position #781a and a second position #781b.
In Apple's patent FIG. 3A above we see that the hinge may provide an interface and/or in 4A the hinge could magnetically support an Apple Pencil. FIG. 4A clearly presents a macOS or macOS-like UI. It doesn't seem to be displaying Apple's Sidecar feature as it's edge to edge; In FIG. 8A we see that the hinge could provide a connection interface that would support adding other accessories such as a camera, projector, a microphone or light.
For more details, see Apple's patent application number 11,320,869.
As a side note, Apple's engineering teams appear to be working on new iPad and MacBook form factors, which would be refreshing. On February third, Patently Apple posted a report titled "A new Apple Patent Reveals an Exciting Highly Configurable Modularized MacBook-Like Computing System." One set of patent figures from that patent is presented below.