The boys at MacRumors have uncovered a new Apple patent application. This one covers a physical keyboard with motion sensing cameras built into the frame. The idea is to merge the keyboard and mouse into one device. There would be both a "typing" and a "mouse" mode, toggled through a key or key combo.
So you'd type in your URL, tap the Mouse Mode button, and finger scroll up and down the page. I'm not really sure how much more comfortable hovering your hands above the keyboard will be, but I can certainly see this being a faster option. What's most interesting in the patent app is Apple's seeming admission of the failure of non-traditional keyboards.
Over the last forty years there have been numerous attempts made to introduce an alternative to the standard keyboard. The changes include, but are not limited to, non-QWERTY layouts, concave and convex surfaces, capacitive keys, split designs, membrane keys, etc. However, although such alternative keyboards may provide improved usability or ergonomics, they have failed to replace or duplicate the commercial success of the conventional mechanical keyboard.
Whether or not this proposed product ever sees the light of day, it's clear that Apple still sees the traditional keyboard / display set-up as dominating for the foreseeable future. The iPad's keyboard is more comfortable than any other touchscreen keyboard I've used. But it still can't compare to the feeling of striking real keys.
I'm sure someone else said something similar about typewriters once.