Naysayers thought Patents about the iPhone, iPad, Apple Pencil & Apple Pay would never come to market and yet Apple Delivered
Before there was an iPhone or an iPad, there was Apple's 2005 patent application. The boxy handheld device on the left side of our cover graphic above turned out to be the iPhone and the image on the right side became the iPad five years later. In fact the images for the tablet illustrated a plain tablet face and super advanced back panel that even to this day has yet to surface. But it was envisioned and is on record which means it's theoretical possible that even that feature could come to be. The naysayers of the day said a phone would never happen and Microsoft's tablet failed so Apple would never dare go down that road. Naysayers are by nature negative and at times very ignorant. It's not a new revelation. In the extreme, the Catholic Church preached that the world was flat and would put people to death for saying otherwise.
Before there was a Patently Apple, I wrote about patents for two other Apple sites and it was hard to get my head around Apple inventing a phone. So I went along with bare bone patent descriptions of an iPod with telephony. That's the awkward way the patents were defining this new-thing in general.
Simply mentioning the possibility of Apple thinking of a phone in a patent report was considered blasphemous to some in the Apple cult. Emails and feedback made it crystal clear what they thought of my patent reports of the day thinking that Apple could never compete with the likes of Motorola and/or Research in Motion (later Blackberry). I think I was called everything under the sun.
Of course the launch of the iPhone and iPad years later had the naysayers scattering for cover like cockroaches. Even Steve Jobs began to describe the iPhone beyond just being a Phone. He introduced it as an iPod, a phone, an internet communicator.
An iPod … a Phone … an Internet Communicator
Apple's iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple Pay, Apple Pencil all started off as first being revealed in patent applications over time. Information relating to each of these great inventions was spread out over many, many patents over many years reflecting the evolutionary process of an invention with Apple's various teams.
True, not every idea is going to become the next great thing. But for sure it's not up to us in the Apple media to make that judgement. History has proven that out.
Last week Patently Apple posted a patent application report about a possible future all-glass encased desktop and possible accessory for a MacBook as the patent and its patent figures presented. It was definitely an All-In-One (AIO) desktop. The patent figures below illustrate Apple's vision for an all-glass AIO desktop.
Of course Apple's patent filing was simply conveying a concept while laying out the groundwork legally in its patent claims. Technically last week's patent was a utility patent not a design patent. So of course it could take on a different look though guided by what the utility patent described. Just like the funky little box in a user's hand in Apple's patent becoming the iPhone, the design will have the freedom to change when the time is right.
This morning it was a little strange to read an article by MacRumors wherein the writer basically wrote-off Apple's invention in the very first paragraph: "Apple has all kinds of fanciful patents for imaginative devices that will likely never come to fruition, such as an iMac-like desktop computer made entirely glass."
However his conclusion was a little more flexible stating that "Apple patents all manner of devices that never make it to production, but with curved glass and foldable devices becoming more popular, there is a possibility that we could see some of the functionality described in this patent at some point in the future."
Patently Apple's patent reports never put a date on when an invention could come to market. In fact we make sure to conclude 99% of our patent application reports with this line: "Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time."
Of course warding off rumors that last week's patent will become Apple's next desktop is wise. That's why we downplay the timing of a patent to market just as MacRumors did to a certain extent today.
Younger rumor sites misinterpret patents as being rumors sanctioned by Apple. These sites get overly excited and make outlandish promises that a particular patent will be delivered in Apple's next product cycle. That's insane and even damaging to the patent process most should respect.
Apple inventions have sometime come to market before the patents even surface, though that's very rare. The iPad took from 2005 to 2010 to come to be. The iPhone, on the other hand, was a little trickier. While the 2005 patent application was the first to show a "new handheld" device, the fact is that the iPod + telephony verbiage predated that by many years.
It probably took a decade or longer before that vision of the iPhone became reality. And keep in mind that Steve Jobs made sure that we couldn't connect most of the dots until he was ready to have it revealed on stage. He beat every rumor site on the planet who never saw the iPhone coming. Oh, those were the days when a product was actual secret until it launched. Well, most of the time that is.
At the end of the day, it's always interesting to post patent reports that cover what some of Apple's seasoned engineers are working on for the future. For instance, the glass AIO desktop inventors include 19 year veteran Dinesh Mathew director of product design. This isn't a first year engineer's first crack at dreaming up a future product. This is a man with history with Apple and product design architecture.
Brett Degner is listed on the patent and he's an 18 year veteran and Senior Manager, Product Design. Chris Ligtenberg is a 19 year veteran and the Senior Director – Product Design Architecture at Apple. Another inventor on the patent is Paul Wang, Architect – Product design who's been with Apple only 7 years but has been a part of major Apple products.
With this wealth of talent on this single project I would never flippantly write this invention off and neither should anyone else. Yet on the flip side, it is always wise for Apple fans to keep patents about inventions into perspective. It's very easy for newbies and some younger rumor sites to turn a patent into the latest rumor and you just can't do that.
Analysts like Ming-Chi Kuo with KGI Securities may have access to members of Apple's supply chain in China and Taiwan, but it's not his vision. He's just cluing us in on what the supply chain is revealing to him in real-time.
Kuo isn't going to forecast an all-glass desktop that may be ready in 3 to 10 years. The two are not equal.
I think Apple's patent covering a glass All-in-one desktop is for the most part realistic just like an almost all-glass iPhone is. Apple has gained a lot of experience with glass and so nothing in the patent filing is too futuristic.
Apple's engineers are presenting a master overview for possible designs for an AIO desktop. They're also toying with ideas for possible accessories for a MacBook with the same look and feel as the AIO desktop. The accessories may not all pan out as envisioned, just like the backside touch panels concept on an iPad was too ahead of its time.
Though two things are for sure. Firstly, no one can write-off a patent application with any degree of certainty, especially when several seasoned Apple engineers are putting their minds together to reinvent the iMac and/or introduce another AIO desktop line of products, and secondly, expect the new AIO design, whenever it arrives, to be super polished with that certain Apple wow-factor built in.