Apple applies for patent on removable touchscreen laptop displays or: How long until we see an iPadBook Air?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Apple applies for patent on removable touchscreen laptop displays or: How long until we see an iPadBook Air?
Basically, there are two different ways that Apple works. Apple will either take a device market that has fallen into the doldrums, and inject it with hype and excitement (see: MP3 players, smartphones, tablets), or Apple will look at how other companies are succeeding and do something similar, but with the extra Apple "magic" (read: marketing). Yesterday, Apple applied for a patent for a removable touchscreen laptop that we don't really expect to become a device, but it does point towards an important question: How long until we see an iPadBook Air?

The patent filing shows a device that would be a laptop, not a mobile device, that has a removable touchscreen display. The display would connect to the laptop base through a 60GHz ultrawideband format (like WiGig perhaps). The display would also use induction charging through the laptop hinge to charge the display for wandering use. 

To be clear, this patent is not for a device that mashes together an iPad and a Macbook. This patent is for a laptop, which has the guts of the computer in the keyboard section. But the touchscreen is detachable and can essentially use a remote connection to use the guts of the computer, which are still in the keyboard. So, this is a patent for technology, rather than an actual useful device, because we can't see any benefits that this configuration would have over something like a Windows 8 hybrid, or Android transformer tablet.

At the very least though, this patent proves that Apple is looking into various ways of evolving its product line.

Apple denies until it can't deny anymore

Checking back on Apple's comments, we'll find that Apple has said repeatedly that it deems touchscreen laptops to be unnecessary, because the "best way to deliver multitouch is through the trackpad." Of course, this is Apple's modus operandi: say that something is unnecessary so as not to impact sales of another device (in this case the iPad), and then do that "unnecessary" thing when Apple's market position demands it

For example, Apple continuously denied that it would ever make a smartphone until iPod sales started to plateau, and suddenly the iPhone was born. Apple continuously claimed that it would never make a 7 inch tablet, until the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 started eating away at its tablet dominance and then we saw the iPad mini. Now, the same thing could very well be happening with the convergence of traditional PCs and mobile devices. Apple continues to claim that a touchscreen laptop isn't in the cards, and that the iPad does not need a keyboard accessory. The company also has yet to lay out plans to bring together iOS and MacOS, but that day is coming, isn't it?

Android already has a handful of tablets that have laptop dock accessories. Canonical wants to make Ubuntu the same OS from phones all the way back to traditional PCs. And, Microsoft's entire strategy with Windows 8 is to blur the lines between tablets and laptops. The first generation of Windows 8 devices has shown that plan, but most fall into the first generation pitfall of being jack of all trades but master of none. Some may stake claim to the Microsoft Surface Pro as the best device showing Windows' future, but others point to devices like Lenovo's Yoga convertible. 

Regardless of how the best way forward is for Windows, manufacturers are going to keep pushing until they find it. And, eventually it becomes a question of whether or not Apple's iPad and Macbook combo (starting at ~$1500) can hold enough market share to keep Apple happy in the face of more Android and Windows devices. 

The future iPadBook (or iPad Maxi or iPad Air)

Android is already eating away at Apple's tablet market share, and there are rumors that Android will be making the leap from transforming tablets to full laptops in the near future. Windows can leverage its dominance in the traditional PC market to add to its "mobile" numbers with more and more hybrid convertible or transformer devices. Eventually, Apple is going to give in and mash together iOS and MacOS, and the first device to do it will most likely be a mashup of the iPad and MacBook Air. It's possible that Apple would go with the full convergence and also offer a dock for the iPhone that would turn it into a traditional Mac, much like Canonical's plans for Ubuntu, but more likely it will be a device to directly compete with Microsoft's fleet of hybrid devices.

The name of the device is obviously hard to guess. The most likely combination of devices would be to swap out the display of the MacBook Air for an iPad, which by the law of word fusion would then become the iPadBook or iPad Air. And, if you take away the keyboard side of it, you'll be left with an iPad Maxi, because it seems highly unlikely that Apple would use a 9.7 inch display on a laptop. The smallest laptop screen Apple offers is the 11 inch MacBook Air, and an 11 inch iPad would certainly fall under the title of iPad Maxi (if not in official title, then in tech circle shorthand.)

The real bottleneck for Apple right now in implementing this would be in the software side. As far as hardware is concerned, it's relatively easy to swap out the MacBook Air display for a larger iPad. The trouble is that creating at least a bridge between iOS and MacOS is a huge task. Apple has been doing some small surface things to MacOS, like adding the Mac App Store, and adding LaunchPad, which are priming laptop users for life with an iPad, but there's a lot of work to make iOS apps run natively in MacOS or create a new app paradigm (like Windows 8). As far as marketing is concerned, it seems like the best opportunity would be in releasing an 11 inch iPadBook Air along with MacOS 11 which should be coming next year, but that probably isn't enough time for Apple to make it all work. 


The question here isn't so much if this convergence will happen, but when. It won't be happening any time soon. The addition of the iPad mini to the roster will help Apple to deny the inevitable a little while longer. And, Windows 8 is still a transition OS for Microsoft, meaning the devices are stuck in a weird limbo where manufacturers don't have a concrete idea of how to best design. Eventually, Windows will be fully Metro Modern UI, and the real convergence between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will become more clear. That may still be another year or two away though, meaning Apple won't be feeling the heat from that side. 

On the other hand, Android looks to continue its march onto any and every device around, and as the Android 10-inch tablet app ecosystem continues to mature, there will be more and more Android devices that start to compete directly with traditional laptops. Android has been moving faster than Windows these days, so we could start seeing Android devices that can be legitimate competitors to the MacBook Air by as soon as next year. And, that will put some more pressure on Apple to do what it has always denied.

source: USPTO via Engadget



1. belovedson

Posts: 1061; Member since: Nov 30, 2010

i don't know what to say about apple anymore. i no longer see apple as an american company but more a reflection of a copycat. a thief deserves its reward

3. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

I see apple like the band of forty thieves. "Open Sesame"!! Into a pile of treasure worth 140 billions

15. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

but now i realise it IS an American Company for Damn sure

20. funnyguy

Posts: 244; Member since: Jan 10, 2013

Copycat of what?

23. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Please tell me this was a joke...

27. funnyguy

Posts: 244; Member since: Jan 10, 2013

No really... Copycat of what? They have put their own mark in the computer history,Machindosh,MacBook Air,Ipad and IPhone, iPod,the first retina display...etc. For example when they released the iPhone who did they copy?

38. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

Jobs copied the Xerox Parc when he launched the Macintosh. It wouldn't have ever existed without that thievery

41. Daftama

Posts: 641; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Hmmm I dont know they couldn't have copied palm

36. RodrigoFreijanes

Posts: 58; Member since: Apr 05, 2013

iPhone brand name. (Apple pay later for it) iPad brand name. (Pay after for it too) Android notification style. iPhone design from Sony. Tablet style from old movies. (And have courage to patent a square with touchscreen?) "Icons on screen" (Apple is so pathetic!) when we can see it since olds Nokia, Motorola etc

47. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Oh my God, can you guys all just stop? This line of argument is absolutely absurd! Sure, Apple copied what came before. The iPhone was the combination of various smartphones, plus the PDAs of the day like the Dell Axim. That's the way this s**t works. Everyone builds upon the work that came before. That's called innovation. Apple combined the limited smartphone experience with the limited PDA experience into something new. Facebook took the eons old experience of making and maintaining friends and digitized it. Google has taken the traditional way of organizing information and mixed in intentions, and social collaboration. Every damn thing in the world is built on something else that came before. That's not called copying or stealing. It's called Life. You are built on the lessons your parents learned and taught. Products are built on the ideas and products that came before. Stop all the damn hate. You're arguing over nothing at all.

49. Timmehor

Posts: 599; Member since: Mar 09, 2013

Thank you, someone who doesn't blatantly hate Apple. Sick of these people not giving a second thought, just HATE, and more HATE. People forget Apple pushed forward some of the biggest technology revolutions in the world.

54. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

*Insert applause here*

56. willard12 unregistered

Does everyone sue over things they slide to unlock? Does every company publicly degrade another company's innovation and then patent similar technology later? I thought combining a tablet and a laptop was like combining a refrigerator and an oven, according to Apple. "One device that does neither well.". Now, there is a patent for something similar. Does everyone do this?

65. belovedson

Posts: 1061; Member since: Nov 30, 2010

are you the real michael. if you are it would be wise to have a neutral stance in the matter. in the meantime this is a big deal. despite being correct in some things. when a company begins patenting the ideas of other that were once free to be used. the patent complicates and eventually stops the innovation from evolving. so again its not a small thing. apple patenting the ideas that were shared by industry is wrong

67. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

So Apple is taking advantage of a broken patent system. Plenty of companies do, because that's the way the broken system works. If all the haters took one day off of bitching about Apple, and spent that day contacting their government reps, and spreading the word that the patent system is broken, Congress would fall over themselves to do something (just like they did with SOPA).

39. Doakie

Posts: 2478; Member since: May 06, 2009

Next thing you know they'll copyright the name Apple iPad Transformer or the iPad Transformer Prime Infinity. Those names sound original.

21. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

I would look at this patent application as Apple trying (they haven't got a patent just yet) to stake out a position in the tablet-as-PC (aka MS Surface Pro) space. MS has the Surface, ASUS has the Transformer, and Apple has this. The benefit of the Apple approach is that the heavy lifting is done by the keyboard part, with the display part having a battery and wireless transceiver. Weight should be at least half that of a similar-sized Surface. Apple is keeping its options open in case MS gets traction with the Surface Pro.

24. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Price would be double of any WP8 tablet/computer.

29. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Depends on how it is deployed. If there was a multi-host version (Citrix WinFrame analog), the cost per screen could be cut pretty low, since only one base station is supporting multiple screens.

46. Luisit0

Posts: 73; Member since: Feb 18, 2013


2. sheik

Posts: 249; Member since: Sep 12, 2012


4. androiddownsouth

Posts: 598; Member since: May 02, 2012

I know there are already companies that have touchscreen laptops with detachable screens. HP comes to mind if I remember the commercial correctly. Here we go with another Apple patent on something someone else has actually brought to market already......smh

40. Doakie

Posts: 2478; Member since: May 06, 2009

I'm pretty sure that Asus did it first with the Transformer... At least give credit where credit is due.

44. androiddownsouth

Posts: 598; Member since: May 02, 2012

Doakie, I wasn't trying to deprive anyone of any credit dude. The HP commerical was just the one that came to mind at the time that I typed my comment. Sheesh........

5. dorianb

Posts: 617; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

Wait I swore Asus had been doing this for AWHILE with the Eee Pad, Transformer Pad, & VivoTab RT. What's the difference?

6. sheik

Posts: 249; Member since: Sep 12, 2012

While Asus doing this for a while their devices weren't a hit. But when this Cupertino based company releases something, those !sheeps will buy anything with a fruit logo on it.

7. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

The difference is that this patent isn't for a tablet that detaches from a keyboard. The patent is for a laptop where the guts are still in the keyboard, but the screen is detachable and can essentially use the computer remotely over a wireless connection. Basically, this patent is for a device that would be silly to build.

17. dorianb

Posts: 617; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

Thanks for the clarification


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

I wonder who thumbed you're positive comment© Yet again really nice article Micheal H™

45. faisolbauuz

Posts: 121; Member since: Jan 05, 2013

What about asus Aio it can dualboot both android and windows while attached or asus taichi ?

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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