Google patent idea hints at mobile, desktop convergence

Google's vision of the future involves touch-screen apps working on mobile devices and computers alike. Maybe.

Can a trackpad on your notebook really work like a touch screen on your phone? Google seems to think so.
US Patent and Trademark Office

In the future, your Google-powered computer could run the same apps you have on your Google-powered smartphone in a way that works with the hardware you have right now.

At least that's the vision laid out in a newly unearthed patent application picked up earlier today by Patently Apple.

The patent filing, titled "Mapping trackpad operations to touch-screen events," describes a system for turning something like a trackpad on a notebook computer into an analog for the touch screen used in conjunction with touch-based applications.

If you've ever seen a software-based mobile phone simulator on a computer (including the one Apple includes as part of its iPhone SDK) the idea here is basically the same.

"Touch-screen devices allow a user to provide direct interaction with a computing device, while trackpad devices typically provide indirect interaction that has been modeled from mouse-based interfaces," the patent application reads. "In general, this disclosure describes techniques for mapping trackpad interactions and operations to touch-screen events without the use of a touch-screen user interface."

The bigger picture, of course, is making Android--which has been a smartphone and tablet platform--more computer friendly.

Google's latest version of Android, version 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich) added native support for common computer peripherals including mice and pointing devices like a stylus (used extensively in Samsung's recently released Note device). That said, those devices cannot always replicate the use of multitouch gestures, which some mobile applications can require.

As usual, it's worth pointing out that this is a patent application, and not a granted patent. Companies also frequently apply for technology ideas that may never end up seeing the light of day in shipping products.