Apple Patents Dual Screen MacBook With Glass Keyboard, and It Sounds Great

Shifting keys, anyone?

Apple may be about to ditch the traditional keyboard for something more versatile. A patent application published Thursday describes a laptop with a glass keyboard and second screen, a move that could enable Apple to offer a dynamically-changing set of keys without sacrificing the feedback from a traditional layout.

The application, filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, is the latest patent that could chart a new course for the MacBook. While the iPhone and iPad have readily embraced touchscreens, the Mac line has held off and focused on giant multi-touch trackpads coupled with a regular keyboard that allow the user to focus on the screen. Apple added a thin touchscreen to the MacBook Pro, enabling users to slide the volume and choose from emojis among other features, but chose to leave this feature out when the MacBook Air launched in October 2018. The company’s patent notes that touchscreens “may be flat and featureless, and may thus occupy less space than a mechanical keyboard but may require users to identify the location of the keys by sight rather than by feel.”

Apple's glass keyboard in action.
Apple's glass keyboard in action.

See more: Dual Screen MacBook Would Be Awesome, Just As Steve Jobs Predicted in 2007

It’s not the first time Apple has patented such an idea. In February 2018, the USPTO published two patents that would replace the keyboard with a giant touchscreen. The following month, it filed a design for a detachable laptop screen similar to Microsoft’s Surface Book 2. During that same time period, Apple also designed a touchscreen that would use a combination of pressure sensors and haptic feedback to make it “feel” more like a keyboard. A patent does not necessarily mean an idea will come to market, but Apple seems to have a clear interest in exploring this area.

Apple’s iOS line has demonstrated why a dynamic screen is ideal for a computing device, as it adjusts the options to the app and even allows for easy language switching. Then-CEO Steve Jobs told the audience at the iPhone reveal in 2007 that the keyboard-centric design of smartphones was bad because “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? You can’t add a button to these things, they’re already shipped!” Unlike these devices though, the large-screened Mac is designed for use in a seating position with hands rested.

The company may provide more clues about its future direction of travel when it takes to the stage at its annual Worldwide Developers’ Conference this summer.

At its previous event, it dismissed the idea of merging its iOS and macOS operating systems with a loud “no.” That doesn’t, however, mean the Mac can’t take on more of the features that made the iPhone popular.

Apple's First MacBook Air Commercial Debuted in 2008