Apple Patents A 2-In-1 MacBook-iPad Hybrid With macOS And Pencil Support

It looks like Apple might be thinking about how it could blend MacBook and iPad user experiences into a single device. Maybe.

As Patently Apple points out, today (May 3, 2022), the US Patent and Trademark Office gave the thumbs-up to a new patent from Apple — one for a "Hinged keyboard accessory having multiple installation modes for a tablet computing device." According to the patent, this accessory could include one or many input devices (keyboard, touchpad, trackpad, etc) that would function with a tablet, along with a "coupling mechanism" that might include a space to store a stylus.

This proposed accessory would, judging by Apple's description in the patent and the associated imagery, attach to a tablet (presumably an iPad) via a connection port of some kind, then function as a more fully-featured keyboard and trackpad (similar to the keyboard on a MacBook). Though right now this is just an accepted patent filing and not an official statement of intent from Apple, so whether or not such an accessory ends up being manufactured is still uncertain.

What this could mean

If we look at this patent as something that may exist one day, it paints an interesting picture. The proposed accessory looks like it wouldn't simply clip around an iPad and connect via Bluetooth like most current tablet keyboards, but rather connect via a new kind of physical connection port. Presumably this would allow the accessory to function as a direct part of the tablet, with no possibility for latency problems caused by wireless connection issues and a likelihood that the accessory could share power with the tablet rather than need to charge separately.

Additional images supplied by Patently Apple show that the attached keyboard accessory could act as a cover for the tablet or swing around to the back for a touch screen-driven interface. Much like current tablet keyboard accessories, and other hybrid tablet laptops like the Acer Chromebook Spin 513. The hinge section looks like it could be intended to house an Apple Pencil or other type of stylus.

There are also illustrations of a proposed on-screen interface that, while it's just a drawing for a patent and isn't proof of Apple's plans, does appear to be very similar to the look of macOS. Complete with what looks like a desktop displaying separate windows, desktop drop-down menus (File, Edit, View, etc), and positionable app icons.

None of this guarantees that Apple will be making any kind of iPad-MacBook hybrid, but it does seem to be thinking about how it could create such a device.