Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Apple patents a desktop touch-screen computer



It was only a matter of time.You can touch your iPod, changing songs with the swipe of a finger. You can touch your iPhone, clicking away on a virtual keyboard or zooming into images and maps. You can touch your iPad, flipping though a book or digital magazine or playing games on the 9-inch screen. So it only makes sense that you should be able to touch your iMac.A European patent uncovered by the blog Patently Apple indicates that Apple could bring multitouch to the desktop, giving computer users the ability to touch the screen of the display in addition to the computer's keyboard.The patent shows a series of sensors that could be added to a standard iMac, including an accelerometer to detect the angle of the screen and in turn change the display's resolution or orientation.
As the illustrations and accompanying descriptions indicate, swiveling the screen down to a touch-screen experience could also disable the keyboard and mouse and show a different style of operating system designed for touch.In the touch-screen mode the patent also shows a new type of interface that looks very similar to iOS, the operating system used on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.It was only a matter of time for iOS to appear on the desktop.touchscreen interface for iMac touchAs I wrote in a blog post earlier this year, engineers inside Apple told me that transitioning some Mac computer models and laptops to an operating system similar to the ultrasimple and accessible interface used on the iPhone and iPad would make sense from a consumer standpoint.The simplicity of the iOS could be a big draw for computer owners as it vastly reduces the struggle many non-techies have when trying to find or save files on a traditional desktop operating system.Although it would be difficult to build a new desktop user interface from the ground up, one engineer told me that it would be easy to add the "iPhone OS as a layer on top of OS X, similar to Apple's Front Row experience" used to watch movies and listen to music.Finally, the patent also depicts a tablet computer that comes with a full multitouch screen and and a regular laptop keyboard and mouse. The laptop tablet illustration seems to have a swivel hinge in the center of the screen that could possibly flip around to create an iPad-like screen when the keyboard is not in use.