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Apple planning a laptop with a camera latch?

A patent application the company filed in March 2004 hints at a new Mac laptop feature.

Apple Computer has filed a patent for a laptop that has a camera built into the latch between the lid and the base, suggesting that it is working on such a feature in an upcoming laptop model.

The patent application, which was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week, is for a portable computer that includes a camera in the housing that secures the lid to the base. The camera, which is integrated into the PC, includes an image sensor and a lens assembly, according to documents on the government agency's Web site.

The patent, which has not yet been granted, was filed by Apple in March 2004.

An Apple spokesperson declined to say whether the company is planning to include the feature in any forthcoming products, explaining that the company doesn't comment on "rumor and speculation."

An image of the proposed device is included on the front page of the patent application.

Other computer makers, including Sony, already sell laptops with a built-in Web cam. Apple, for its part, has not released a notebook or a desktop with an integrated camera, but does sell its iSight Web camera as an $149 add-on.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.