Tech Report

By: Nick Gambino

What would the MacBook be without the keyboard? Well if Apple has its way it’ll still be a MacBook just sans keyboard. I’m sure you’re wondering, “How the hell does that make sense?” Well according to a patent Apple filed with the US Patent & Trademark Office they’re looking at replacing the MacBook keyboard with a touch-sensitive pad. Kind of like one large trackpad.

They titled the patent “Configurable Force-Sensitive Input Structure for Electronic Devices.” The idea here is that the keys would appear when and where you want them. They will light up through small perforations in the panel. Using haptic feedback this pad would react with your touch much like 3D Touch does when you use Quick Actions in the iPhone 6s. This way you feel like you’re still pressing on something. You know, in case you’re comforted by that kind of thing. So, what would be the benefit of this drastic move by Apple? Well, the MacBook would get even thinner which is always something Apple and pretty much everybody tries to accomplish.

But that wouldn’t be enough of a reason to deep-six the physical keyboard and risk a potential huge failure. No, they are looking at something with more scope. This kind of “keyboard” would allow for customizable layouts. You can change the settings to make it a number pad, trackpad, game pad and of course a regular QWERTY keyboard. You can allow these settings to change according to the app you have open. Let’s say you want to play a game. Just open the gaming app and your customized gaming keyboard would appear. If you’ve got Microsoft Excel open then maybe you’d have it change to a number pad.

And this is where the idea becomes interesting. There is currently nothing like this customizable pad on the market. All of a sudden the MacBook becomes so much more than a stiff laptop. No more needing to hook up a separate external keyboard for gaming or just because you’re unsatisfied with the resident key layout.

Now though the idea seems great, this doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily ever hit the assembly line. So far we only know of a patent being filed. There’s no picture of a prototype, no word from Apple about “an amazing, revolutionary new feature to hit the MacBook.” Let’s just hope if it ever does go into production they at least provide consumers the option of buying a MacBook with a good ol’ physical keyboard.

Do you think this new “Configurable Force-Sensitive Input Structure” is a good idea or should it stay in the idea stage?

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Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch.  He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.


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