You Wouldn’t Believe What Apple Inc. Might Do Next
There’s no exaggeration here, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is about to start another revolution in personal computing. Okay, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) probably got the best of the last one. But this time around, the “iPhone” maker’s next big thing could send Apple stock through the roof.
Before I reveal what this thing is, let’s go over the revolutionary products that Apple has brought us to date.
The “iPod” was instrumental in changing the way we listen to music, the iPhone successfully brought us a generation of people who can’t function without their smartphones, and the “iPad”—despite facing strong criticism when it first launched—also kick-started the tablet era.
This time, it’s the good old computer that might be revolutionized.
Remember when Steve Jobs first unveiled the “MacBook Air?” He pulled the device out of a manila envelope to showcase how thin it was. The MacBook Air marked the beginning of the ultrabook era. Today, every computer manufacturer makes some sort of ultrabook.
The biggest constraint when it comes to making laptops thinner and lighter is the keyboard. Manufacturers can replace bulky hard drives with compact solid state drives (SSDs), they can remove the fans, but they can’t really do much with the keyboard. At the end of the day, users still want the typing feature of a laptop on their ultrabook.
Even Apple could not really do much about it. When it launched the new 12-inch “MacBook” last year, it had to redesign the keyboard so it could fit the new shape of the laptop. This time around, though, the company might have made a huge breakthrough.
Apple has filed a patent application titled “Configurable Force-Sensitive Input Structure for Electronic Devices.” What this means is that Apple might be able to bring out a laptop with a giant touchpad as the keyboard. (Source: “United States Patent Application: 0160098107,” U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, April 7, 2016.)
Now, before you start arguing that touchpads don’t offer the same tactile feel of a physical keyboard, note this: Apple’s patent includes a haptic feedback module and a light guide layer. Thanks to these features, users will not only be able to get a haptic signal when they input a letter, but also see the “key” lit up.
According to a drawing from the patent application, the laptop has four distinct input areas. However, the application did mention that the device “may have any number of input areas,” so we might even see just a single giant touchpad on future MacBooks.
Source: U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
The touch-based input structure is also configurable. When you want to write an essay in a word processing application, it would show you a keyboard. When you are crunching numbers in “Excel,” it would display a number pad. It might even be able to function as a game pad if you so desire. However you look at it, the technology has the potential to bring out a very versatile product.
Of course, you can’t forget the form factor implications of this patent. Until today, the biggest hurdle to making an ultra-thin laptop has been the keyboard. Because physical keys have a travel, it’s difficult to reduce the thickness of a laptop after a certain point. In the future, with the “zero travel” input structure, Apple’s line of MacBooks might just take sleekness to a whole new level.
The Bottom Line on AAPL Stock
In the past, the form factor has been a huge catalyst for sales of Apple’s MacBooks. They were always the go-to choice for consumers who wanted a laptop that was both powerful and stylish. In recent years, though, competition has gotten intense as PC makers started joining the game. Apple’s new technology has the potential to bring the company back to the center stage of the laptop business.
Needless to say, this could spark another bull run in AAPL stock.