Apple's next MacBook could pack in quite a few surprises for users if a recently granted patent is anything to go on.
On Tuesday Feb. 18, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted Apple a new patent for "Housing as an I/O device" whereby, the notebook's housing would not only hold and protect the parts inside, but also serve as input/output device. This basically means that users will be able to control the MacBook by simply touching its chassis.
Currently, Apple's MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air have multi-touch trackpads as the primary UI, but the recent patent hints that the company is looking to deploy the MacBook's frame and bezels as touch inputs as well. What this implies is that in the long term, Apple may completely negate the use of physical buttons and let users enjoy a more intuitive experience.
The patent reveals that the MacBook would tout an illuminated chassis that is also touch sensitive. The external walls of the notebook would be able to accept user inputs and then react accordingly. For example, a user may place their fingertip on the device's USB port and the system will automatically display a window that will show all the USB-specific options. The MacBook may even read aloud the name of the USB port for users.
To illustrate further, users may touch the notebook's camera and all the camera functionalities would be thrown up by the MacBook.
The new Apple patent also suggests that the MacBook may pack in illuminated displays, which will be under the device's casing. This would light up to show a user where to touch. The patent also discusses a light-up keyboard that would exist completely in the chassis, eliminating the need for a physical keyboard.
Apart from being touch-sensitive, the Apple patent also makes references to the concept of squeezing. To illustrate the concept, here's an example: A user would be able to squeeze the left side of their MacBook to decrease the volume and squeeze the right side to increase the same.
At this juncture, it is too early to say if Apple will eventually bring these features to the new MacBook as the patent was filed in 2009. A lot of patents are granted but rarely see the light of day.
To learn more about the Apple patent head here.