Apple’s 2024 MacBook range will bring the M3 chipset to consumers while boosting the performance and potential of the MacBook Pro. Little will change on the outside, but Apple is working on one possible change that would signal a revolutionary new approach.
The details come in a recently granted patent. Titled “Mountable tool computer input” (PDF Link), it describes the addition of a stylus—presumably a variant of the Apple Pencil—to the MacBook platform. The patent talks about a holder for the Apple Pencil that sits above the number keys on the laptop, allowing for easy access by the user.
The documents clearly show the pencil holder in place of the current function keys, but that does not mean the functionality is necessarily going to go away. Further in the patent comes the idea of a display on the stylus that would mimic the function keys when stored in the laptop, allowing users to interact with the controls in way that is closer to the departed Touch Bar than physical keys.
That’s far more functionality than we see in the Apple Pencil today, and it feels more like a “let’s get this in the patent to be sure we have it covered” than an actual product.
Yet the inclusion of a stylus on any MacBook feels a natural fit given Apple’s established plans to bring the macOS laptops and the iPadOS tablets closer together in terms of software support. The idea of apps running seamlessly on either platform has become a talismanic goal for Tim Cook and his team.
There’s one big operational difference between the iPad and the MacBook… a touchscreen. While you can work with the trackpad, it’s not a great solution. If Apple is looking to equip the MacBook with an Apple Pencil, that suggests a digitizer for the stylus and a touchscreen is being planned.
Not every technology described in a patent will reach consumers. Not every feature in a patent will make it. But they do point out what a company is working on in the R&D department. Apple is still working on a touchscreen MacBook.
Now read how Apple very nearly unified the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro into a single monolithic consumer product…