Apple patent application feeds speculation about future iPhone
Apple has applied (PDF file) to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for protection for a track pad that is translucent, touch sensitive on both sides and can be used as a display. The application claims that it is suitable for use in desktop computers, laptops, music players and mobile phones. These and other sections of the document, together with the illustrations that accompany the application, have fed speculation about how the iPhone might look in the future. The application, which was made in September 2007, has just been published. The technology contained in the application is remarkable similar that of the Lucid Touch project, a collaboration between Microsoft and Mitsubishi Electric.
According to the patent application, the technology could be applied to a two-part, fold-up mobile phone. When open, one section would act as a track pad device with optional numeric keypad display. When closed, the input device would act as a translucent touch screen, displaying information from the screen underneath. A user could, for example, select an entry from phone's address book before opening the phone, which would initiate the call.
The technology could turn a closed laptop into a Tablet PC-style device with a touch-sensitive screen. When the laptop is opened, the touch screen could function as a normal keyboard. A translucent touch pad similar in size to those used in modern laptops could enable owners to see information, such as when an email has arrived, even when the laptop is closed - a feature similar to Windows Vista's Slideshow.
If there is a risk of a finger or a stylus covering important details on a small, touch-sensitive screen while information is being entered, a unit equipped with this technology could function as a track pad rather than a touch screen, says Apple. The company devoted itself to this problem when it drafted its application for another technology, that of data entry via the rear of a device. Researchers at Microsoft have already devised a technology they call Shift, which enlarges details on a touch screen as soon as they are covered by a finger.