Hy­brid The­ory

Gary Mar­shall goes pan­ning in the river of ru­mour for nuggets of knowl­edge

Mac Format - - UPGRADE! -

You can’t ac­cuse Tim Cook of in­con­sis­tency. In 2012, he pooh-poohed talk of a con­verged iPad/Mac de­vice by say­ing that “prod­ucts are about trade­offs, and you be­gin to make trade­offs to the point where what you have left doesn’t please any­one”. He came back to the sub­ject in Novem­ber 2015, say­ing that “we feel strongly that cus­tomers are not really look­ing for a con­verged Mac and iPad… what we’re wor­ried would hap­pen is that nei­ther ex­pe­ri­ence would be as good as the cus­tomer wants”. So why is Ap­ple patent­ing just such a de­vice?

We can dis­count Cook’s com­ments about cus­tomers, be­cause Ap­ple isn’t fond of fo­cus group­ing; Steve Jobs was fond of quot­ing Henry Ford’s com­ment that if he’d asked peo­ple what they wanted, they’d have asked for a faster horse. But Jobs also dis­missed ver­ti­cally-ori­ented touch­screens as er­gonomic dis­as­ter ar­eas, and Cook is prob­a­bly right that a con­verged Mac/iPad wouldn’t de­liver the best of both worlds.

Ap­ple’s US patent ap­pli­ca­tion 9,176,536 was filed in late 2011, but pub­lished in Novem­ber 2015. It de­scribes a wire­less dis­play for a hy­brid note­book. The dis­play is a touch­screen that con­nects to the rest of the de­vice with re­tractable mag­netic hinges, and it has a wire­less chip to com­mu­ni­cate with the key­board sec­tion – a sec­tion that, in the patent draw­ings, looks an aw­ful like the bot­tom half of a MacBook Pro.

It also looks aw­fully like Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Book, but be­fore you get too ex­cited it’s worth look­ing at an­other 2011 patent for a “Tele­phonic MacBook with Ro­tat­able Dis­play”. That patent out­lined a MacBook with a clutch bar­rel an­tenna for mo­bile data and a ro­tat­ing hinge that en­abled the MacBook to work in tablet, lap­top or tent mode, just like so many Ul­tra­books do. The thing is, Ap­ple didn’t build its Tele­phonic MacBook – and it didn’t build the sim­i­lar-sound­ing MacBook Tablet it patented three years be­fore ei­ther. It does look aw­fully like Ap­ple has tried to make a hy­brid that meets its stan­dards again and again, and has con­cluded, again and again, that it just doesn’t work. That’s not to say that Ap­ple won’t ever make a 2-in-1 iPad/Mac hy­brid, but it doesn’t look likely in the short term.

It’s not all bad news on the patent front, how­ever. A sec­ond patent pub­lished at the same time as the hy­brid note­book patent de­tails an “Ul­tra-Low Travel Key­board with 3D Touch Func­tion­al­ity”. The new Magic Key­board has ul­tra-low travel, but not 3D Touch. Yet.

Our artist’s im­pres­sion of the 2-in-1 iPad that Ap­ple has filed a US patent ap­pli­ca­tion for.

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