Apple Patent Filing Shows Touch-Enabled iMac, MacBook

Apple appears to be extending its touch offering from mobile devices to desktop-bound hardware, based on a patent application showing a touch-enabled iMac.

The European patent was filed July 9, and shows a computer that can switch between mouse and touch-based input via an adjustable stand. Listed as inventor was Paul Costa, who is the hardware engineering manager at Apple. Uncovered by the Patently Apple blog, the filing shows an iMac-like computer, with an adjustable stand, which can keep the computer in an upright position, of tilt it horizontally, so you can use it more like an iPad. (Click on the thumbail image below for a close-up look at the patent drawing.)

What's particularly interesting about the filing is a mention regarding the interfaces when the iMac Touch is used a regular computer or as touch-enabled device. The computer would work like a current iMac (with Mac OSX), and when swiveled down on its stand it would function more like a giant iPad. This could be implement through an additional "skin," like FrontRow is used via an Apple Remote, but touch-optimized.

The transition from standard to touch mode is made either via sensors in the computer, or by using the tilting stand. The idea behind this is that some applications are better suited for touchscreens (games, drawing, media consumption), while other are best used with a mouse and keyboard (spreadsheets, word processing).

The patent covers both desktop and notebook devices, and fuels previous reports and rumors about Apple preparing touch-enabled OSX hardware. The interface used when in touch mode could also explain earlier rumors of iOS apps coming to Mac OSX.

The area of the patent covering notebook devices, like MacBooks, shows a laptop with a touch-enabled swiveling screen, which can lie flat against the keyboard facing upward. This idea is not new by any chance, as so-called "convertible" laptops have been on the market for several years now.

Would you buy a touch-enabled Mac computer? What would be the killer feature for you? Sound off in the comments.

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