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Is Apple Going to Change the Keyboard As We Know It?

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The company has filed a new patent for a buttonless Macbook.

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) was awarded a new patent today for technology that could allow the company's Macbooks to function entirely without buttons. Patent 8,654,524, originally filed in 2009, is titled "Housing As an I/O Device" and would allow for the body of an Apple Macbook to be a "single continuous housing surface with no or limited breaks." (See the actual patent here.)

Put more simply, users would be able to control the computer by touching the surface of the machine. For example, if you're watching a video and you want to turn up the volume, you might squeeze the right side of the laptop. (Squeezing the left side would turn the volume down.) The technology would also allow for a "virtual keyboard," illuminated by lights embedded in the framing of the laptop. When the user is done typing, the lights would turn off and leave the body of the laptop blank and clean.

An image from Patent 8,654,524. Source: USPTO

This is not the first Apple patent for technology that would broaden how the company uses touch controls. Last month Apple was awarded a patent for a display unit on the outside of a laptop that functions not only as an exterior screen with touch input ability, but as a solar panel as well. Another Apple patent awarded last month would replace the typical click button on the Macbook's trackpad with four or more force sensors and an actuator, which would give a user tactile feedback.

Apple has been very successful with its touch technology, sparking touch revolutions in both smartphones and tablets. Looks like laptops could be next.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
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