Apple has a new patent for an iPad accessory (via Patently Apple) that incorporates keyboard features into the design of a new smart cover. The touch-based cover resembles the one Microsoft’s Surface uses for input, but it has a unique twist which is the basis for the patent – multi-touch gesture support that turns the whole cover into a trackpad, rather than limiting that to a dedicated space like that found on the Surface version.
The cover consists of both a back panel that could be used to prop up the iPad, like the one that currently exists, as well as a keyboard section that can use both keyed input and multi-touch. Gestures could include the typical ones supported in iOS already, in addition to others to be determined, and the case would snap onto the iPad using its embedded magnets, with different folding methods that could hide both keyboard and cover away behind the back of the device, or protect the front by folding over, too.
After spending some time using the Microsoft Surface touch keyboard cover, I can say that I’d appreciate a similar accessory for the iPad, too. Ditching the dedicated touchpad and rerouting gesture input should clear up room, making for a less bulky and more portable product that saves all the room it uses for key spacing, so that definitely sounds like a plus. Apple has patented a number of possible expansions to its magnet-based Smart Case system in the past, and this is just the latest. It’s also the most practical, however, so hopefully we’ll see it introduced as a way to diversify the iPad accessory line-up somewhere down the line.