(Pocket-lint) - A recently granted patent reveals Apple has looked into a MacBook which takes a somewhat unconventional approach to its input methods. Rather than have a physical keyboard like a normal laptop, it has a virtual area that adapts for the use case.
The patent shows a few images: one with a normal straight QWERTY layout, another with a split ergonomic layout and still another that has no keyboard at all, just buttons for controls.
Of course, if Apple ever did go down this route, it wouldn't be the first company to toy with the idea of replacing physical buttons with a virtual area for keys and other controls.
Asus - as one example - has released a few products with secondary displays, as well as one concept device called the Precog. This had a second display instead of a keyboard.
The idea being that it can be a versatile, multi-use surface. We suspect Apple was thinking along similar lines when it was looking into this idea.
Although Apple's patent was only granted recently - and uncovered by Patently Apple - it was submitted a few years ago, along with other ideas for how MacBooks could be interracted with.
For instance, the space bar on the virtual keyboard could be used to input swipe gestures instead of just tapping it. The Macbook could also feature areas for physical interaction as well.
Depicted in some of these patent images you'll see areas on the device that can be used for Touch ID, as well as an area you could rest your phone to wirelessly charge it. Or, for creators, an area to place a physical control device like a dial.
As with any Apple patent, of course, just because it exists doesn't mean it'll ever see the light of day in an released product on the market. So don't expect a dual-screened MacBook with a virtual keyboard any time soon.