The recent MacBook Pro refresh was just a spec update and keyboard change (much appreciated!). But Apple is chipping away at some very interesting developments for its laptops, apparently. Rumors predict a MacBook powered by a custom-designed ARM processor, as well as a 14-inch MacBook Air as soon as next year. However, that may be just the icing of the proverbial cake!
Touch-sensitive armrest and keyboard?
A recent patent shows Apple is experimenting with turning the armrest – that is, the whole area below the keyboard – into a touch-sensitive surface. This won’t be an overgrown touchpad, but rather a touch-sensitive area which can be customized by users and developers. So, for example, video and audio editors can utilize the whole touch surface while writers can disable touch sensitivity in the areas next to the touchpad so they can rest their hands while typing.
This technology’s potential for music producers is very exciting. Picture the OLED strip and the touch-sensitive surface as your new DAW and VST controller combo, for starters. Or an area that lets you specify custom shortcuts and gestures to control applications with. Sound good? Yep, I think it will be a while before other laptops can do that!
Furthermore, Apple wants to enable touch sensitivity in each of the keyboard keys. This will let users control applications with gestures, such as swipes and taps – not unlike the keyboards of BlackBerry smartphones from the not too distant past.
Of course, a patent is just a patent. The technology may exist in the Apple secret labs, but this doesn’t mean it will be ready next year, or even arrive in consumer devices at all. However, I think touch surfaces are a neat and usable idea which could extend the laptop’s flexibility and enable new ways to interact with software. Let’s hope Apple will get the tech right and ship it sooner, rather than later!