Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is exploring putting touch capabilities on more devices than just the iPad and iPhone. Currently, Apple notebooks like the Macbook Pro and Air have the multitouch trackpad as their main user interface, but a recently awarded patent signals that Apple is looking into using the Macbook’s frame as a touch input as well. The patented chassis design allows users to use the entire bezel as an input, giving control of the mic gain, speaker volume or play/pause capabilities.
Don’t get too excited, however, as Apple is known to patent ideas that sometimes never pan out. Patents that have yet to make an appearance in actual devices include a solar-paneled Macbook with touch capabilities, solar-powered iPad keyboards, touchscreen notebooks and a 3D controllable iPad. The 3D controls are accomplished with air controls, where the placement of your hand above the screen acts as an input too. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S4 currently employs this technology for page swipes and scrolling.
The touch chassis patent, called “Houseing as an I/O device,” registers a chassis that has input and output controls. This lends itself to customizable options. According to the patent, there will be “one or more sensors obscured by a panel of the housing.” Considering how the touch controls could allow Macbook designers to remove keys, this offers the possibility for anything from a few new dedicated buttons on a traditional Macbook to a completely touch-sensitive computer without buttons.
While it may be a stretch of the imagination to consider Apple producing a keyboardless Macbook, it could be a great opportunity for the computer company. A virtual keyboard provides better protection for the internals, for example. Anyone who has ever accidentally spilled soda or water onto their computer can attest to how hard it is to clean the surface. But with a touch sensitive keyboard that exists as a chassis alone, clean up would be a snap.
Of course, that is pure speculation. Right now all we know is that Apple is exploring possibilities. Who knows where they will go with the application of the patent, if they even intend on designing a computer that employs the idea. For a look at the patent, go here.