In 2020, Patently Apple was first to reveal a patent application from Apple that revealed a possible future all-glass desktop form factor. While Apple may not have the courage to bring such a beautiful beast to market, they continue to work on it with updates. In September 2021 Apple was granted a patent for their original patent. Then in December 2021, Apple was already updating their invention. On August 30th, the European Patent Office published an update to Apple's invention. Today's report presents a number of new images that we've never covered before along with new information about this invention.
A Desktop with a Glass Housing
In a brief overview, Apple notes that a traditional desktop computers typically include discrete displays and input devices (e.g., keyboards, mice, and the like). Apple patent covers computing systems, such as desktop computers, that includes a single member that defines a surface that includes one or more interface areas, such as an output area (e.g., a display area) and an input area.
In various embodiments, a housing or structure of an electronic device may be formed from a housing member (e.g., an optically transmissive member) that encompasses both a display area and an input area of the electronic device. One or more display components (e.g., OLED displays, LED displays, and the like) may be coupled to the housing member and configured to provide a graphical output at the display area. Similarly, one or more input components (e.g., touch sensors, force sensors, biometric sensors, and the like) may be coupled to the housing member and configured to detect inputs at the input area. Additional input and output components are envisioned and discussed in more detail below.
In some embodiments, the housing member defines a continuous exterior surface of the electronic device. The exterior surface may include one or more interface areas for providing outputs, receiving inputs, or some combination thereof. In some embodiments, the housing member includes a first portion (e.g., an upper portion) that defines a planar display area, a second portion (e.g., a lower portion) that defines a planar input area, and a curved portion (e.g., a transition portion) extending between the first and second portions. In some embodiments, the upper portion, the lower portion, and the transition portion cooperate to form a continuous exterior surface of the electronic device. In various embodiments, interface areas may overlap and/or provide multiple types of functionality (e.g., receiving inputs and providing outputs).
The housing member may be formed from any suitable material, such as plastic, ceramic, glass, composites, or combinations thereof. For example, the housing member may be a single piece of glass that has been molded (e.g., slumped) to form the various portions of the housing member. The electronic device may take the form of or be included in any suitable computing device, including a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, an automobile, a wearable audio device, an appliance, an accessory device, or the like.
A housing member may be formed from a continuous and/or seamless member (e.g., a sheet) of a material, such as glass, plastic, or ceramic (e.g., it may be a single glass member). The housing member may be formed from an optically transmissive material to allow images or light to be visible therethrough.
In some cases, transparent materials or components may introduce some diffusion, lensing effects, distortions, or the like (e.g., due to surface textures) while still allowing objects or images to be seen through the materials or components, and such deviations are understood to be within the scope of the meaning of transparent.
The housing member may also be a dielectric and/or substantially nonconductive, allowing touch and force inputs to be detected through the sheet, and allowing electromagnetic waves and/or fields (e.g., radio frequency signals, inductive power, inductive signals, and other wireless communications or electromagnetic energy transfer) to pass through without substantial attenuation. The housing member may be continuous or seamless, which may help prevent the ingress of liquid or other foreign debris.
Apple's patent FIG. 1A below illustrates an example electronic device that includes a housing member; FIG. 11D illustrates a rear perspective view of the electronic device showing where connectors would be positioned. The desktop may also include one or more speakers for providing audio output. In various embodiments, one or more speakers #1193 may be positioned within the support structure 1170 and configured to provide audio output.
Apple patent FIG. 4B above illustrates an embodiment of the example electronic device #400 in which the housing member #450 is shaped to define physically distinctive key regions #459. In various embodiments, the housing member may include recesses, protrusions, borders, or other physical features on its exterior surface that define and/or delineate distinct key regions that can be felt by a user when typing on or otherwise touching the input area #455.
For example, a glass housing member may be thermoformed, slumped, heat-pressed or otherwise processed to form an array of raised key regions (e.g., protrusions, contoured key regions, etc.) that define the key regions of a keyboard. Raised key regions may provide a more familiar-feeling keyboard surface to users, as the individual key regions may have a similar shape and feel to conventional movable keys.
Moreover, a user may be able to type faster and with fewer errors because they can feel the borders and boundaries of each key region and do not need to look at the keyboard to align their fingers with the keys. The ability to feel distinct key regions may also help prevent a user's hands from unintentionally drifting out of position during typing.
Apple's patent FIG. 11B below shows the keyboard 1185 transitioning to a use configuration in which the keyboard is positioned on or above the lower portion 1154 and is extended out of the opening 1186. The keyboard 1185 may be configured to slide out of the opening 1186 as part of the transition from the storage configuration to the use configuration, and slide into the opening 1186 as part of the transition from the use configuration to the storage configuration.
Apple's patent FIG. 12B below illustrates a keyboard #1285 may extend through the opening #1286 for access by a user.
Apple's patent FIG. 12C above illustrates a MacBook coupled to a lower portion of the desktop wherein the keyboard and trackpad could be used with the desktop.
Apple's patent FIG. 20B above illustrates how the lower section of the desktop could fold up for easy transportation; FIGS. 20C and 20G illustrates a flexure mechanism that may be a hinge #2030 positioned within the housing member 2050. The hinge may have one or more pivot points (e.g., pivot points #2032a and #2032b) about which various portions of the housing member #2050 may rotate.
Apple's patent FIG. 20G, illustrates a component of the electronic device that may be segmented into multiple segments #2094a-d, which are configured to flex or otherwise move relative to one another to variably conform to the curvature of the electronic device. In various embodiments, the segments 2094a-d remain operably coupled as they move.
Below are 9 of the 20 new patent claims being added to Apple's original patent to advance the system and or protect it better against patent trolls.
Claim #1: An electronic device (#100) comprising: a glass housing member (#150) comprising: a first glass sheet defining a continuous front exterior surface (#151) of the glass housing member; and a second glass sheet (#1050b) defining a rear exterior surface (#161) of the glass housing member, the first glass sheet and the second glass sheet defining: an upper portion (#152) of the glass housing member and defining a display area; a lower portion (#154) of the glass housing member, positioned at an oblique angle with respect to the upper portion, and defining an input area; and a transition portion (#156) defining a curved region of the glass housing member extending between the upper portion and the lower portion, the glass housing member configured to bend, in the transition portion, in response to the lower portion being articulated between a first angular position relative to the upper portion and a second angular position relative to the upper portion; a display (#1090a) positioned between the first glass sheet (#1050a) and the second glass sheet and configured to provide a graphical output through the first glass sheet; an input device (#1090b) positioned between the first glass sheet and the second glass sheet and configured to detect an input through the first glass sheet.
Claim #2: The electronic device of claim 1, wherein: the upper portion defines a first planar region of the continuous surface of the glass housing member; the lower portion defines a second planar region of the continuous front exterior surface; and the transition portion defines a concave, curved region of the continuous front exterior surface.
Claim #5: The electronic device of any preceding claim, wherein the electronic device comprises a support structure coupled to the glass housing member along the transition portion and configured to support the glass housing member on a support surface separate from the electronic device; and wherein the glass housing member is movable, relative to the support structure.
Claim #9: The electronic device of claim 1, wherein the input device (455) and the display (453) overlap to form a touchscreen-style display.
Claim #10: The electronic device of claim 1, wherein: the transition portion defines an opening; and the electronic device further comprises: a keyboard having: a storage configuration in which the keyboard is positioned behind the opening; and a use configuration in which the keyboard is configured to extend through the opening.
Claim #11: The electronic device of claim 10, wherein the keyboard is: releasably coupled to the glass housing member; and configured to detach from the glass housing member in the use configuration.
Claim #13: The electronic device of any of claim 10, wherein: the opening is a first opening; a second opening is defined in the upper portion of the glass housing member; the electronic device further comprises: a camera positioned at least partially in the second opening; and a processing unit positioned in the support structure; and the camera (1180) is operably coupled to the processing unit by a camera trace coupled to the glass housing member.
Claim #14: The electronic device of claim 13, wherein the camera trace (1181) is formed of an optically transmissive material.
Claim #15: The electronic device of any preceding claim, where the electronic device comprises a flexure mechanism coupled to the glass housing member and configured to maintain the lower portion of the glass housing member in a user-defined angular position relative to the upper portion.
To review full 20 new patent claims and or review the entire invention, review Apple's EU patent application (update) 23172890.
Maybe it's just me, but I think that this model of iMac would be a smash hit and certainly a leap forward in form factor.