Mobile Technology

Apple smart cover patent application hints at secondary display for iPad

One drawing shows a touch-screen keyboard attachment not unlike the Touch Cover, an accessory for Microsoft's Surface tablets
One drawing shows a touch-screen keyboard attachment not unlike the Touch Cover, an accessory for Microsoft's Surface tablets
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The additional screen space could be used to display extra icons
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The additional screen space could be used to display extra icons
One drawing shows a touch-screen keyboard attachment not unlike the Touch Cover, an accessory for Microsoft's Surface tablets
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One drawing shows a touch-screen keyboard attachment not unlike the Touch Cover, an accessory for Microsoft's Surface tablets
Graphics tablet-like functionality can be seen in this drawing
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Graphics tablet-like functionality can be seen in this drawing
The cover folds similarly to Apple's Smart Case, and could feature a rear-facing media control panel
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The cover folds similarly to Apple's Smart Case, and could feature a rear-facing media control panel
A four-pin connector that is not present on the current-gen iPad can be seen here
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A four-pin connector that is not present on the current-gen iPad can be seen here
The Smart Cover could feature a status bar
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The Smart Cover could feature a status bar
An E Ink-like panel could be included on the device, as well as various notification areas
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An E Ink-like panel could be included on the device, as well as various notification areas

The US Patent Trademark Office (USPTO) has made public an application for an iPad cover encompassing a flexible touch-screen display. The product detailed in the patent that Apple filed for nearly a year ago would aim to “greatly enhance the overall functionality of the tablet device.”

The cover, strongly reminiscent of Apple's current Smart Case, would be of a shape and size to match its host display, with a portion of the flexible material presenting visual information to the user. The size of this screen, and therefore the portion of the cover it would take up, is unclear, with the various images filed along with the application, hinting at a range of potential functionality.

The extra screen space could be used for a number of functions, including a media control interface, a notification center, a graphics tablet-like drawing space, or simply an area for additional, frequently used icons. The drawings also suggest other, more ambitious uses of the extra screen real-estate, including an attachable full-sized, touch-screen keyboard. This is strongly reminiscent of Microsoft's Touch Cover, an accessory for its upcoming Surface tablets. The application also states that the cover may feature “an electronic paper display requiring no power to maintain a current display state.” This is likely to utilize similar technology to the E Ink displays found on various eReaders including the Kindle range.

The additional screen space could be used to display extra icons
The additional screen space could be used to display extra icons

Like the current Smart Case, the device would attach magnetically to its iPad parent device, but this connection would act as a communication channel between the tablet and the cover, as well as providing power to the extra screen. It's unlikely that the accessory would be compatible with the current generation iPad, as one drawing details a four-pin connector on the side of the device which isn't present on current or past versions of the iPad.

If the device detailed in the patent ever sees the light of day, then it may well exhibit similar functionality to devices that feature dual touch-screens, such as Sony's P Series or Acer's Iconia Dual Screen tablets, albeit with a notably more versatile form factor.

Source: USPTO

5 comments
Daishi
This probably won't make it past moderation but here is an article titled "Microsoft reveals customizable LCD keyboard" from Aug of 2010: http://blog.seattlepi.com/microsoft/2010/08/16/microsoft-reveals-customizable-lcd-keyboard/ I've seen a handful of other custom keyboards over the years meant for things like programming wow spells onto the keyboard keys and having the key display the spell you have programmed onto it. The Optimus Organic LED keyboard (http://www.gizmag.com/go/4283/) came out in 2005 with LED keys that could be changed into icons etc. and the Nintendo DS is doing a lot of this already. The question becomes, if LED keyboards existed on laptops already can you patent the idea to bolt it onto a tablet and enforce it? How different really is a tablet with a keyboard and a laptop anyway? Imagine if airbags and ABS existed in cars but the first person to install one in a truck claimed to have invented the idea of having them in trucks and sued anyone else who also decided to have them in trucks? This patent war has crossed over from just protecting ideas into a digital land grab by nearly any objective observation.
exioce
This isn't copying Microsoft's Surface at all, is it? It's only companies that aren't called Apple that copy things...
Ct
Looks like the tablet is morphing into a netbook wth a touchcreen.
PeteKK
This is just Apple covering their assets. Smart companies try their best cover all bases when applying for patents. If they want to use it... they have it. If someone else wants to, well... they either have to buy the IP, pay a royalty or go pound sand. In the end... Apple is covered and just because they have a patent doesn't mean there's going to be a product based on it.
Daishi
@PeteKK that isn't how the patent system is supposed to work. The person that owns an idea isn't supposed to be the richest company that has recently applied for a patent for it. The idea existed long before this patent.
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