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Circuit Breaker

Apple imagines iMac built into curved sheet of glass

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The patent application’s design curves from keyboard to screen

Image: Apple / USPTO

Apple applied for a patent for an ambitious design for a new all-in-one computer which integrates both its keyboard and screen into a single curved sheet of glass. The patent application, which was first spotted by Patently Apple, and which was filed in May last year, describes how the iMac-like computer’s “input area” and “display area” could be built into a single continuous surface, while a support structure behind the display could then contain the computer’s processing unit, as well as providing space for all the machine’s ports.

It’s a pretty striking design for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the amount of curved glass involved is far more than Apple has ever used in one of its products before. It’s also interesting to see that the company is thinking about taking the iMac’s all-in-one design even further, by integrating not just the computer and display together, but also a keyboard and touchpad as well (although the application also describes how the keyboard could be detached during use).

A support structure behind the display could contain the processing unit for the machine.
Image: Apple / USPTO
The patent application even suggests the design could allow a MacBook to be docked into the display.
Image: Apple / USPTO
One diagram shows how the iMac could fold down to be more easily stored.
Image: Apple / USPTO

Beyond the application’s core claims, Apple outlines some pretty ambitious concepts for how it would like the new iMac design to work. Most interesting is an idea for how you could dock a MacBook into the device. The laptop would theoretically output its screen to the iMac’s display, while its keyboard would pass through a hole in the middle of the machine to let you use it as normal. At another point, the application suggests that its single sheet of glass could fold down its middle to allow you to pack it away when not in use.

Given how radical the design is, we’d be very surprised if this patent application for an “Electronic Device with Glass Housing Member” made it to market in its current form. However, given the iMac’s design has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade coupled with new advances in glass fabrication, it’s not surprising to learn that some designers within Apple are considering a shake-up.