‘iMac Touch’ patent uncovered in Europe

If a patent published recently in Europe is any indication, Apple is planning to build computers that combine touch screen capabilities of the iPad with traditional mouse and keyboard interfaces on the same device.

According to the blog PatentlyApple, the hybrid concept envisioned could mean that at one moment, consumers are running a typical iMac, but with one adjustment, can play famed iPad game “Angry Birds” straight on their 20-inch iMac display.

The crux of this arrangement is that the new devices will allow people to quickly switch from the OS X operating system to the iOS used by the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone. The idea is that keyboard/mouse interfaces are preferable for some applications while touch-based mode works better for others. That concept appears to be reflected in the title of the patent, “Transitioning between Modes of Input.”

A few of the first pictures of the new devices came to light in January when the world was distracted by the debut of the iPad itself.

According to the patent, the switchover from OS X to iOS on the ‘iMac Touch’ occurs when the user grabs sensors located near the bottom right and left of the display screen (no. 505 on the right). An illustration shows how the display screen collapses downward, through a system of hinges and sensors, thereby transitioning to touch display.

One of the more intriguing designs points to a Macbook-type device in which the display screen is rotated and laid flat against the keyboard. The screen faces up, ready to receive input as a touch device. It should be said that his kind of “Tablet PC” has been done by Lenovo and Gateway in the past. As a matter of fact, the 2007 Gateway M 275X can still be bought online for $93.