Apple's touchscreen iMac heads closer to reality

Apple is taking another step closer to the release of a touch-sensitive iMac, if a new Digitimes report is to be believed. This follows months of hotly-disputed rumor the company intends releasing a touch-controlled desktop Mac.

According to Digitimes, Sintek Photronics has sent samples of "projected capacitive touch panels to Apple to be incorporated in the latest iMac all-in-one (AIO) PC."

The report explains that production capacity for 20-inch and larger displays of this kind is limted and complex, making it highly likely Sintek will become the supplier of these touch screens.

We're told that these panels are produced by placing touch sensors on the panel with glass on top of that. There's lots of things which can go wroing in the production of such panels, and the displays may end up being less bright.

But in other news, the report tells us to expect a good viewing angle and that the screens will be thin and relatively light.

No word here on how big these screens will be, nor any advice as to how Apple intends implementing touch within these machines, though there may have been a recent hint on this in a patent filing uncovered this week.

Patently Apple tells us about a virtual input device application patent for OS X. In this you input device will be rendered in virtual form on your display. So, for example, your trackpad will be displayed on your computer monitor and you'll control it using your touchscreen.

In June the Apple rumor mill speculated Apple (AAPL) would introduce a touchscreen iMac in late summer. This will be an iMac with a touch interface.

That rumor rendered further speculation Apple might implement such technologies by allowing touch-controlled Macs to run iOS apps in some hybrid mode.

We don't know how Apple intends making touch relevant to Mac users. We do note the recent introduction of the Magic Trackpad, which introduced more sophisticated mutlitocuh gestures to desktop computing.

In July,  Patently Apple revealed a host of 3D interface patents, these include patents for 3D widgets, which "deliver different features, attributes of functionality depending on which side of the widget you click on."

This focus on 3D and gesture-controlled computing seems to be an emerging hubbub on the Mac rumor scene.

A selection of August-published patents described use of sensors in a hinge holding the iMac up on a stand, these would change input settings depending on screen orientation. Put the screen flat and it would accept touch gestures, when vertical it would accept conventional (mouse and keyboard) instructions.

It will be interesting to see if there is substance to the Digitimes claims, and in what way Apple intends ensuring a positive user experience on a touch-based iMac, particularly when it comes to using traditionally-controlled applications.

We hear Apple is pulling developers out of its video teams to work on technologies described as iOS-related. Could these 3D and video experts be working instead on OS X technologies implementing iOS apps? Wait and see.

In other news, of course, keep an eye on iWork and iLife, both of which are currently available at heavy discounts from US retailer, Amazon, a move which sometimes hints that product upgrades are on the way.

Enjoy the weekend.

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