A patent filed by Apple
with the World Intellectual Property Organization shows an iMac with a tilting display that can transform on the fly from a standard desktop computer running Mac OS X to something very much like an iPad running iOS. The patent was discovered by Patently Apple
, who also revealed the touchscreen MacBook patent profiled here yesterday
. Put together, the two patents are a pretty strong indication that Apple is seriously looking at unifying Mac OS X and iOS and has figured out how to do it.
Patently Apple's Jack Purcher is pretty fired up about the discovery of this patent, which he called the "Mother Lode of all information
concerning the iMac Touch." And it's certainly true that this would be a pretty cool computer. When it's upright like an iMac, it would run Mac OS X using the keyboard and mouse for control, and when it's laid flat, the system switches to iOS and the monitor becomes a touchscreen. The patent describes the ability to set at what angle the switchover happens: "An accelerometer in the display could sense the force of gravity along an axis, and the measured force could be used to determine an angle of the display with respect to the ground (i.e. the plane perpendicular to the direction of the force of gravity). A transition between input modes could be performed when the vertical angle (tilt) of the display crosses a predetermined angle." The computer could also use a rotation sensor mounted in the adjustable stand or a touch sensor located where you would grab the display to tilt it.
The patent also describes how this technology would be used in a laptop, with the display rotating and laying flat against the keyboard in a way that's reminiscent of convertible tablet/netbooks like the Telsda
. The part of the patent that talks about the capability of "operating a peripheral device coupled to the host device" seems to pretty clearly refer to slaving your iPhone to the computer, with functions like "answering a telephone call, placing a telephone call, terminating a telephone call, changing the volume or audio settings, storing information related to telephone communications such as addresses, frequently dialed numbers, received calls, missed calls," and on and on. This means you'll basically have your iOS and Mac OS X worlds completely unified on your desktop.
This information comes with the same caveat as yesterday's patent news
: just because Apple has taken out a patent on something doesn't mean there will actually ever be a product based on it. However, this thing sure looks like something Apple would do, it would probably sell like hot cakes, and it looks like it could be built with all off-the-shelf technology Apple's already got. The application was filed a year ago, and to be honest, I'll be more than a little surprised if it doesn't get made into a product rather soon.