How awesome would a dual-screen MacBook with haptic keyboard be?

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A dual-screen MacBook could look a little bit like this.
A dual-screen MacBook could look a little bit like this.
Illustration: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple engineers are looking into a laptop that uses a touchscreen in place of a keyboard. The second screen would be slightly flexible, allowing keys to depress. It would also be extremely customizable –basically like a giant Touch Bar.

The company has been considering a dual-screen computer for years. A patent filing published today reveals more details on Apple’s thoughts.

So far, Tim Cook and Co. have declined to make a macOS laptop with a touchscreen. A dual-screen MacBook like Apple’s recent patent proposal would be a compromise that gives users access to configurable touch controls without adding touch support to the rest of the operating system. It would extend the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar over the entire keyboard.

Another option for this design is as an add-on keyboard for an iPad Pro. Or Apple could even be thinking about both possibilities.

Dual-screen MacBook Patent Filing
This illustration from Apple‘s patent filing shows what it’s thinking.
Image: Apple

As the patent filing points out, the touchscreen could easily switch among a keyboard, media controls and gaming controls. One device could offer QWERTY, QWERTZ, AZERTY and Dvorak layouts, and the touchpad could be any size desired.

Haptic keyboard would add flexibility

The problem with typing on the iPad’s display is the keys don’t move, which becomes uncomfortable after a time. The second screen in Apple’s patent would flex slightly when pressed, giving the user some haptic feedback. Naturally, this would be much less movement than offered by standard keys.

It’s not clear if the flexible touchscreen could also function as a regular display. Apple’s patent filing makes no mention of it allowing the user to, for example, show their email next to their keyboard.

So the question is, would only the ability to easily reconfigure the keyboard be worth giving up the feel of regular keys?

A caveat

Apple files dozens of patents every week, many of which never become products. It’s quite possible that will happen with this one too.

The company filed for its patent on a dual-screen computer back in 2015, and only recently received approval from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing for the touchscreen with haptic feedback came in late August of last year, so Apple seems to be still considering the idea.

Only time will tell if the dual-screen MacBook idea goes beyond the drawing board.