Apple continues exploration of all-glass iMac, now with touchscreen element

All-glass iMac patent expansion

Almost two years ago, Apple applied for a patent on an all-glass iMac design with a built-in keyboard and trackpads. The company appears to be continuing to work on this idea, with a fresh iMac patent today adding no fewer than 20 new elements, including a partial touchscreen, and a solution to the obvious ergonomic flaw…

Apple patents are always written in extremely dense language, but what it described was later illustrated (above) by Yanko Design.

The design is a single slab of glass. While the original patent described this as transparent glass, Patently Apple notes that Apple has now clarified that, as expected, sections of this can be painted or otherwise coated.

Apple clarifies that the glass housing could be made with materials that are transparent, coated, painted, or otherwise treated to produce a non-transparent (e.g., opaque) component; in such cases the material may still be referred to as transparent, even though the material may be part of an opaque component. Translucent components may be formed by producing a textured or frosted surface on an otherwise transparent material (e.g., clear glass). Translucent materials may also be used, such as translucent polymers, translucent ceramics, or the like.

Many of the additional claims aren’t particularly interesting, but three things stand out. Claim 9 says that despite being made from a single sheet of glass, there may be a way to adjust the angle of the display.

The desktop computer of claim 8, wherein: the glass sheet is configured to move relative to the support structure; in a first configuration, the first portion has a first display angle; and in a second configuration, the first portion has a second display angle different from the first display angle.

Claims 15 and 16 address the obvious ergonomic flaw we mentioned when the patent was granted – that the keyboard and trackpads are in fixed positions. Apple now says this the user could slide out the keyboard portion to either pull it forward or position it freely. There is no specific reference to the twin trackpads, but these would presumably be likewise removable.

A keyboard having: a storage configuration in which the keyboard is positioned at least partially within the opening; and a use configuration in which the keyboard is extended from the opening.

The electronic device of claim 15, wherein the keyboard is: releasably coupled to the slumped glass housing member; and configured to detach from the slumped glass housing member in the use configuration.

But the most surprising addition is claim 14.

The desktop computer of claim 8, wherein the input device extends along at least a portion of the planar display area to form a touchscreen-style display.

Steve Jobs famously rejected a touchscreen Mac.

Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical. It gives great demo, but after a short period of time you start to fatigue, and after an extended period of time your arm wants to fall off. It doesn’t work, it’s ergonomically terrible.

Jony Ive and Phil Schiller echoed this, the latter saying that years of testing it in prototype form had shown that Steve’s instincts were right.

But the patent doesn’t go as far as to suggest that the entire screen be touch-sensitive – it refers instead to ‘at least a portion’ of it. That might, for example, be the dock. Or it could suggest something like the Touch Bar, though Apple has of course now abandoned this in its latest MacBook designs.

As always, of course, we note that Apple patents a huge number of things, and very few of them make it to market. Is an all-glass iMac design something you’d like to see released? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.


Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

Guides

iMac

Originally released in 1998, the iMac is Apple's all-in-one desktop computer. The current version (2019 model) offers 21.5" and 27" 4K and 5K displays.

patents

About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

Ben Lovejoy's favorite gear

NordVPN

Apple Watch Series 3