Apple is working on a laptop that turns into a tablet, revealed by a patent outlining a mash-up of an MacBook -- and a clever power-sharing feature sets it apart from hybrid rivals.and a
Patently Apple reveals patent 250673 was filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office at the end of 2011, providing broad strokes of how the hybrid could work.
The device covered by the patent consists of a keyboard base and detachable touchscreen that connect to form a standard laptop, or detach to give you a tablet when you don't need to lug about the extra weight of a keyboard. That pitches it against rival hybrid designs like the , , Asus Vivo Tab, Microsoft Surface, and the venerable .
The two sections connect via a latch or spring, the connecting bits retracting into the housing when the two halves are uncoupled. There may even be magnets involved, like the magnets in the iPad that cleverly secure Apple's smart cover.
Apple wants the base to be more than just a dumb keyboard. Not only can the two together work as a laptop when you need to type, but the two communicate with each other when parted. Data can be transmitted between the via a 60GHz wireless chip, Bluetooth, or any other connection. What form the base will take is unclear: perhaps the idea of the two talking to each other is that you can plug in peripherals to the base and still access them when you detach the tablet screen and wander off with it.
The screen doesn't always have to talk to the base, either: it can also connect wirelessly to a phone, camera or other device without attaching physically.
So far, so hybrid. More interesting is the prospect that the two sections can not only talk to each other in terms of zapping data about, but can also share power even when not physically attached. Coils or capacitive plates could be included in the devices to create a magnetic field that send power humming through the very air -- similar to-- keeping the two devices juiced even when they're being used separately.
This is just a patent, so there's no certainty Apple has even developed the idea further, let alone considered it for public consumption. Should Apple get into the hybrid tablet/laptop game? Can Apple bring something new that rivals can't? Dock your thoughts in the comments or detach yourself over to our Facebook page.