A new patent granted to Apple today (via AppleInsider) introduces a concept that shows how it might go about introducing touch-based input to its notebook line. The patent describes a special notebook display that has two sides, as well as photovoltaic cells for charging, and touch input sensors on its outward shell.
The design is quite different from anything Apple currently puts out, and has an almost sci-fi style top surface that features glass which can be triggered via electrical sensor to appear either solid and opaque or transparent. Solar charging cells are built into the surface so that when it’s transparent it can use ambient light to charge the notebook’s battery. There are also provisions for either an embedded Apple logo to be included beneath the glass surface, a small secondary LCD display or a series of touch sensors.
The secondary display could thus be optionally hidden away from view entirely when not in use. And it sounds like the secondary display could provide vital information when needed, or at-a-glance access to notifications and updates even when the device is closed or in sleep mode.
Touch sensors on the shell could trigger mechanical lock or software locks, according to the patent, as well as allow a user to input pass codes, or control media playback on the device. Other types of input could be accommodated as needed, according to the patent, so you can imagine it serving as supplementary for a number of applications, or as a potential trackpad replacement if the laptop is being used in closed mode with an external monitor.
The patent was originally filed in 2010, so this may be relegated to the R&D labs, but it would make for a very interesting and novel Apple notebook design. The solar-powered element alone would do wonders for all-day usability and possibly alleviate space requirements for batteries within the case, so it could be an area of continued study for Apple engineers.