Its successful innovation with ARM-based Apple Silicon will not stop Apple from innovating with Mac hardware. While Tim Cook and his team are unlikely to change the fundamental idea of a laptop, small technological changes with big hardware impact will continue to guide the development of the platform. To take an example, what could Apple do with your MacBook’s trackpad?
Details are contained in two new patents entitled “Interface Pressure Sensor System for Electronic Device” and “Pressure Sensing in Portable Electronic Devices”. As described, these patents cover “An interface pressure sensor includes a fluid pressure sensor disposed within a volume defined by a shear wall. The volume is enclosed and the fluid pressure sensor is encapsulated by a filler material The filler material defines a sensor surface which, when pressed, can transmit a force detectable by the fluid pressure sensor.
Obviously, Apple’s Jack Purcher notes that these sensor systems, exemplified by a laptop-shaped device, are going to be trackpads:
“The Pressure Sensor Module (#300) includes a #302 Fluid Pressure Sensor which may be a microelectromechanical fluid pressure sensor, such as a high-precision barometric sensor. Apple is trying to hide the fact that figures 3B&C is for a trackpad, but the top cover materials are glass and fiberglass, which are used in MacBook Trackpads, and Figure 1 clearly shows how their new sensor system applies to future MacBooks.
One of the examples in the patent (which includes potential uses in the Apple Watch and iPhone) is in the touchpad of a MacBook laptop. While continuing to ignore the potential of touch on laptop screens (leaving that UI to the iPad family), MacBooks used touch quite obviously in the TouchPad but also in earlier iterations with the TouchBar .
Arguably, Apple already has a touchpad that can handle three different levels of pressure; sliding your finger on the touchpad, clicking to the first notch (perhaps to highlight a phrase word) and pressing the touchpad further which acts as a major click.
The new technology, if installed, would allow the touchpad to be more responsive to touch, to be able to detect the gradual increase in pressure, and to increase the flexibility of the touchpad for many groups; for those with an artistic bent, the touchpad would be closer to a graphics tablet than a portable replacement for a mouse.
In this case, there’s been no mention of 3D touch coming to the next wave of Mac hardware. As always with any published patent, there is no guarantee that a company will commercialize the technology contained in a patent.
It is clear that through published patents, you can gain insight into the development trajectory of a company. Apple is clearly looking to iterate and build on familiar technology in a way that unlocks more potential without damaging core functionality that consumers expect.
Now read the latest thoughts on the MacBook Air and when you should buy a new macOS laptop….