Since the iPad’s introduction earlier this year, there has been plenty of chatter over a possible touch-based interface for the Mac. Patently Apple has uncovered an Apple patent published in Europe earlier this year that details how future Macs could run both OS X and iOS.
The patent describes an accelerometer-fitted iMac that is able to switch between the two operating systems depending on the orientation of the screen – when upright, it would display OS X and work with a mouse and keyboard; when closer to horizontal, it would switch to iOS and be controlled via touch. From Patently Apple:
When the iMac’s display is oriented upright and relatively far from you – the keyboard/mouse input mode could be selected and basically you’re operating in OS X mode.
Then to switch to a touch-based input, you’ll change the orientation of the iMac’s display so as to make touching the screen easier and more natural. For example, to enter touch input, you’ll want to pull the iMac’s screen closer to you while pushing the display screen down flat as if you were going to read a book, states the patent. In this orientation you’ll be able to select a corresponding UI which should translate to using iOS.
The transition could similarly result from the action of grabbing the Mac to move it into the other mode, with touch-sensitive areas around the Mac’s screen prompting the computer to switch modes.
The patent also describes a touch-based MacBook that can be quickly converted into ‘tablet mode’ for iOS use:
The patent clarifies this by stating that “the display could also be oriented for touch input. For example, the display may be rotated and laid flat against the keyboard, with the backside of the display facing down against the keyboard so that the display screen is facing up, in an orientation for touch input.”
Such designs already exist in PC notebooks, so it’s unclear whether this somewhat clunky implementation would make it to a MacBook. The iMac option, however, could be a viable way to combine Apple’s two operating systems, drawing on the huge success of iOS on the iPhone and iPad to propel the Mac further forward. And with numerous rumours from January and June this year pointing to such a touch based iMac, we may indeed see an iMac Touch in the future.