Apple introduced the iPad Pro back in November 2015 along with their Smart Cover, a soft cover accessory that included a keyboard made of material. Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple where we see that Apple's engineering team had considered a hard cover accessory for the iPad Pro. Whether this is still being contemplated for the future isn't known, though some Apple fans would like to see a sturdier keyboard and trackpad accessory from Apple. Many such third party accessories already exist. Apple's engineers also illustrate using an iPhone as a MacBook's trackpad and that's a humorous idea that will never see the light of day.
Apple's design in patent FIG. 2 noted above is a MacBook with an iPhone as a trackpad. This isn't a plausible design. In the bigger picture, Apple has for years thought of repurposing the trackpad area for other functionalities with a plug-in design for accessories. Below is a patent figure from a 2006 patent report,
Apple's patent FIG. 4 noted below from Apple's current patent application is a clamshell accessory for an iPad that could be an alternative to their current soft cover Smart Keyboard. It would also come with a traditional trackpad many Apple would like to see on the iPad accessory.
Apple's patent application was filed back in Q3 2016. For more details about this invention, click here. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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