Apple could be about to bring a dual-screen design to the MacBook. A patent published last week details a design for a laptop that replaces the plastic keyboard with a glass design, backed by a screen to enable users to switch keys at will. A previous concept demonstrates why the company may pursue this idea.
The application, filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, aims to combine the flexibility of an iPhone touchscreen with the tactile feedback that enables rapid typing on a MacBook without looking at the keys. Istanbul-based designer Furkan Kasap produced a concept that shows why the Mac would benefit from a flexible design, enabling a bigger working space above the keys where users can flick through recent contacts, videos and other information. Kasap tells Inverse that “the idea of glass keyboard is nice and the fact that it got the patent is also promising. However, in my concept, the keyboard became more useful with the applications on the top. In my work, I thought, if we are talking about the touchscreen keyboard, it needs to be easier in terms of having access to the applications.”
In many ways, the concept is an expansion on the Touch Bar included with high-end MacBook Pro models. This replaces the function keys with a thin strip that changes depending on the current application, offering emojis during a messaging app, a volume slider when music is playing, or a set of shortcuts in Safari. The bar provides no tactile feedback, however, and its limited scope has received criticism from some users as a “pointless gimmick.”
Apple has hinted at a more touch-focused future for the Mac before. Chief designer Jony Ive said in a 2016 interview that, two years prior, the company had created a prototype around “this idea of larger, haptic-rich trackpads — what you now see as the Touch Bar — combined with a keyboard.” Ive went on to refuse to answer a question on a future touchscreen Mac, adding: “That puts me starting to talk about things that we are working on.”
The company may provide more details about any such moves at the Worldwide Developers’ Conference, the annual summer event where the company releases information about its upcoming software launches.
The biggest argument for a second screen may have come from company founder Steve Jobs 12 years ago. When he first announced the iPhone, he dismissed button-based phones as “every application wants a slightly different user interface, a slightly optimized set of buttons just for it. And what happens if you think of a great idea six months from now?”