On future Macs, iPad, MacBook Air and iPhone

Apple's got more planned than even Google can imitate.

Despite the mass hysteria greeting Google's swathe of product introductions this week, Apple's seeming silence isn't a giant groaning, but the sign of a competitor drawing its breath to make the next move.

Remember that alongside creating the iPhone, iPod and iPad, Apple also develops computers.

I'm looking forward to the next major enhancement to its range, because I think iPhone apps will one day run on Macs in a virtual Dashboard-like layer.

What's interesting me today is a recently published Apple patent which describes a new feature on the Apple TV, the capacity to learn and be controlled by the remotes that ship with HDTVs.

That is neat -- detailed in this tech support note -- but it is not what I'm excited about. I'm excited about this.


In this picture you see a section marked, 'iPhone simulator'. Apple does not discuss this anywhere else in the filing, which makes it even more interesting.

It is the clearest evidence yet that Apple intends fielding iPhone features within future iterations of the Apple TV. This is something I was speculating on very recently, and can imagine an iPhone or other such device be the control for this.

Imagine, you'll be able to play movement-based games on your TV, (Move over Nintendo).

But there's more.

Macs, now with iPhone inside

Apple filed a patent for iPhone simulation in August 2009. This described how an iPhone can be simulated on a computer, so developers can build apps on their Macs. Various iPhone controls are emulated by mouse gestures...

Now we know developers use this to build their apps, but isn't it interesting how the trackpads on mobile Macs are becoming ever more sophisticated, capable of handling complex touch-based gestures?

That second patent describes itself as a "System for simulating multi-point input on a multi-point sensor panel, the system comprising:a display for displaying a representation of the multi-point sensor panel;a single pointing user input device; anda device simulator, the device simulator configured to receive an input from the single pointing user input device and convert it into a multi-point input according to predefined conversion rules."

I think this can go further. As in the Apple TV example up above, I think we'll see iPhone apps running on that device in simulated mode. I also think in future we'll see them running in simulated mode on future Macs, in a similar way to Dashboard apps.

Apple may choose not to do this. After all, the experience will be limited, requiring keyboard or mouse gestures to simulate accelerometer/motion-based commands. But it is possible.

Beyond this, consider the iPad. A huge success already, likely to sell 8-10 million this year. And a great template for a future Mac.

Look to the now long-in-the-tooth MacBook Air. The thinnest Mac ever, imagine if it had a 13-inch MultiTouch screen. Imagine if it was an iPad form factor, with a virtual keyboard and an invisible trackpad.

Imagine it ran a full version of Mac OS X, while also enabling use of iPhone apps in that mooted Dashboard-like emulation layer. This truly would be the thinnest, lightest and most sophisticated Mac around.

If only the display manufacturers could produce such large touchscreens in reliable quantities.

And no one should ignore the rumors of a 22-inch touch-controlled iMac.

All of this is speculation, of course. What do you think is likely?

-- Apple will at some level integrate the Mac with the iPhone OS.
-- Apple will maintain two strictly separate development paths.
-- Apple already seeks the successor to Mac OS X?

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