The New 12” MacBook Will Have an iPhone-like Interface

by James R. Stoup Jan 17, 2007

Imagine Apple releasing a 12” MacBook pro in June.

Now imagine opening it up only to find the keyboard is missing.

It has been replaced with a sheer black surface strangely similar to the iPhone.

You press the power button and the screen lights up, then your virtual keyboard lights up.

Oh, and there is no trackpad. The keyboard is the trackpad.

Does that sound too far fetched? Really? I don’t think so. Now, this might not happen in time for June, but tell me why it won’t happen eventually. Tell me why Apple can’t (or won’t) one day replace the conventional keyboard with a digital replacement?

Think of what you could do with a laptop with such an interface. You wouldn’t need a trackpad because the entire virtual keyboard’s surface could be converted into a trackpad. All of the gestures supported in the iPhone would translate directly to your laptop. You could zoom in, crop a picture, save it, move it around and then switch programs all by using simple finger motions. Of course, in addition to using that surface for input it could also double as a secondary display. Imagine hitting a key and seeing all your widgets zoom into view where your keyboard use to be. Tap one to bring it up to the big screen, manipulate it and then make it disappear. What about time machine? How would you like a virtual wheel you could spin that would take you along your file’s timeline? Or for gaming, you could create custom keys of any shape, size or color all named and mapped specifically for your current game.

And these ideas just scratch the surface of what else you could do. If Apple were to start shipping laptops with a Multi-Touch screen built in the very notion of how we use computers would have to change. What does a trackpad really do anyway? It translates the motion of your finger so you can move a cursor. It can detect taps and translate that into mouse clicks. And that is basically it. Now we are seeing a technology that will allow a whole new range of motion to be supported, which in turns means our old notions of what a user interface is are obsolete.

Remember the image on Apple’s homepage that cryptically explained that 2007 was just the beginning?

Welcome to the future.


  • So would the Macbook have two screens?  One for the keyboard and the other as a display?  Or are you talking about combining the two into one mega-display?

    If that’s the case, then why think in terms of Macbooks that “open”?  The iPhone is one solid brick with a screen that covers that whole thing.  What about that?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • They’ll use a less expensive “screen” with multi-touch. A typical keyboard cost is in the $10 range for manufactures, maybe a touch more for apple because they have thier own design, still this “screen” won’t be able to match the resolution of the regular screen to keep within a cost point.

    Didn’t I say this was gonna happen? And we’ll see it in a replacement bluetooth keyboard first, not a macbook pro. But it will probably ship standard with a MacPro. And will also act as a tablet as well.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 172
  • Oh this will also REMOVE the notion of Qwerty/MS/Apple/Language based keyboards of the past since the computer can tell the keyboard what keys to show…

    xwiredtva had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 172
  • It would be cool, but it’s never gonna happen.  This scheme would be too disadvantageous to touch-typists:  Too easy to loose your place w/o the tactile keys…

    jcgavula had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 4
  • Oh and colors and styles, etc…

    Little note on this: This will outsell ipods and macs and iphones combined the year it hits the market AS LONG as they make a Windows driver and development kit or API for it.

    I could also see high end PC makers purchasing the boards from Apple to include in their packages. Apple could spin an OEM department, even TODAY, and spin their products into the hands of other companies to “Package” together and triple sales. But hey, I don’t work there so I’ll keep it to myself.

    xwiredtva had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 172
  • @Beeblebrox

    Yes to your first idea. The laptop would have 2 “screens”.

    The first would be the main 12” screen while the second would be the smaller screen that would be the size of a normal laptop keyboard. (which is something like 5"x11” I think).

    James R. Stoup had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 122
  • Can you imagine the Final Cut users and Audio engineers when they can use a board like that to make edits and adjustments in films and music? Think of the time savings alone!

    Science and Tech would go through the roof knowing then can use precise finger movements to make adjustments to data or slide through long DNA chains or whatever…

    xwiredtva had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 172
  • I’d hate this.

    I’ve been waiting for a 12” MBP to replace my 12” PowerBook, but for it to be like this….

    I want a good keyboard. Heck, I want a GREAT keyboard. I loved the old Apple Extended Keyboard II, and I now use a Matias Tactile Pro. To replace that with something that would have NO feedback would be an absolute deal-breaker for me.

    Scott_R had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 17
  • It might be a nice idea as a tablet, but it would be absolutely horrible to use these things if any amount of your work involves typing. I think many people here are underestimating—to their peril—how much of typing involve the tactile sensation of the keys. Never mind the fact that an all touchscreen keyboard destroys everything taught to you about typing and forces you to have to look at the screen to key in input, but even for hunt and peckers, the tactile feeling of the keys allow a person to operate a keyboard at a level just below consciousness. I.e. you can push certain keys before your brain even registers what the key is. You take that tactile feeling away, your typing speed drops off dramatically.  It’s very much akin to how much of your sense of taste is dependent on your sense of smell.

    SterlingNorth had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 121
  • There would have to be some hotkey or active corner of the touchscreen to switch between a keyboard (of any flavor, be it QWERTY, foreign language, FinalCut, or Photoshop) and the touchpad mouse pointer interface.  Otherwise you’d try to scroll or highlight something and end up with a string of gibberish or something.

    Andrew Harden had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 19
  • Unfortunately it is impractical. It may happen SOMETIME, but I think we’re looking at something like at least 10 years. The cost is prohibitive and the lack of tactile feedback is unfriendly. I think we’re more likely to see a touch-screen display become standard before we’ll see the keyboard go virtual.

    Now what we need is a virtual screen that CAN provide dynamic tactile feedback somehow. That would be amazing and would swing the virtual input device market wide open.

    Joshua Curtiss had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 5
  • I’m not sure Apple’s frst attempt at adding touch screen abilities to a “laptop” will have two screens. I assume they would try something such as a slate/tablet with a touch screen and encourage the use of a bluetooth keyboard for those that want tactile typing. Otherwise, the single screen would just popup a keyboard at the bottom for those that want to type something quickly (landscape mode for more accurate key spacing). They might also allow the use of a stylus because it is a bigger screen and employ Inkwell technology to capture written input from the screen into text.

    SirROM had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 3
  • I think we would more likely see a removal of trackpad, and a simple touch screen but with a keyboard.

    The screen becomes the input for navigation & manipulation, with a keyboard remaining for text input for reasons previously mentioned.

    Inkling had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 1
  • xwiredtva, you’re obviously NOT a film or video editor.

    Professional editors are looking for speed and efficiency in both user interfaces, as well as input devices. A touchscreen with no keyboard satisfies neither requirement. When you’re editing, you are always invoking and executing various features using dozens of different keyboard shortcut combos at the same time that you are moving the mouse/trackpad/wacom tablet around. Not only is this impractical on a touchscreen (unless your screen is 5 feet wide), it’s terrible because there are no tactile cues as to what button youre “pressing”.

    For the same reasons why guitar players don’t/won’t playing stringless instruments with a touch-sensitive fretboard, the same goes for video editors.

    melorama had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 1
  • xwiredtva, you’re obviously NOT a film or video editor.

    Haha.  Very true.  When I edit, and when I work with other editors, we often cut without even looking at the keyboard.  You simply can’t do that with a touch screen keyboard.  And as for the touch screen taking the place of the trackpad, I HATE trackpads.  I prefer a mouse.

    But my thinking here is largely based on what currently exists.  Certainly in film editing and fx, new input devices have been introduced - like jog shuttles and tablets - albeit ironically to mimic old analog devices like mechanical jog shuttles and pen/paper.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 17, 2007 Posts: 2220
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