Apple patent hints at a bigger touchpad on a Mac laptop

Apple has been granted a patent (number 2018006751) for a “wide touchpad on a  portable computer” that hints at a much bigger touchpad on Mac laptops. Perhaps it could even lead to the “Magic TouchPad” that I’d like to see.

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In the patent filing, Apple notes that advances in technology have enabled the size of personal computers to decrease. As a result, the use of portable computers is rapidly increasing. 

One trend in portable computers has been to make them as desktop computer replacements, which requires them to be larger, while still maintaining their portability features. Apple says that the display assembly in particular, which includes a display screen, has become larger, to become comparable to the sizes of desktop computer monitors. 

This has caused the housing of the base assembly to increase proportionally. Large base assembly housings can easily accommodate full-size keyboards, but the size of the touchpads must still be limited because of the high risk of unwanted activation, as discussed above, as well as providing the necessary space for palm rests. 

What’s more, in order for larger portable computers to be practical for portability purposes, they must still be relatively thin and light. One conventional method to reduce the overall thickness of portable computers is to mount the touchpad flush with the top surface of the base assembly housing (e.g., the palm rest areas). However, this increases the likelihood of accidental brushing by a user's palms, especially during typing. Apple thinks it has a better idea.

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Here’s Apple’s summary of the patent: “In one exemplary embodiment, a portable computer having a display assembly coupled to a base assembly to alternate between a closed position and an open position. Palm rest areas are formed by a touchpad disposed on the surface of the base assembly. In an alternative embodiment, a touchpad disposed on the base assembly has a width that extends substantially into the palm rests areas of the base assembly.”

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.