Booting Up: For Apple, It’s Mac to the future

Apple missed the market for convertible touchscreen laptops, but now the company may be preparing to gamble on a new hybrid device.

The next generation of MacBooks could come in the form of aluminum shells that are hardware “hosts” for iPhones and iPads, according to a newly public patent application that provides a rare glimpse into Apple’s carefully guarded vision for laptops.

Apple envisions two notebook designs, one that would use an iPad as its screen, and another that would feature a compartment to house an iPhone in the spot usually reserved for a trackpad. These crossbreed devices are each called a “cooperative electronic assembly” in the patent application filed last year and made public Thursday.

For anyone familiar with a device called the Motorola Atrix Laptop, which had a dock for a smartphone in its rear, this is yet another example of what’s-old-is-new-again. You’re probably thinking that this is classic Apple: Take a half-baked idea from a competitor, make it pretty, perfect the technology and tell the masses that such a divine creation could only have come from the hallowed halls of Steve Jobs. But this gets even less innovative: Samsung also applied for a patent for a laptop that doubled as a phablet dock in 2015.

However, both the failed Motorola laptop and the Samsung hybrid-that-never-was had a shared disadvantage: They were ugly. I’d bet that if Apple ever prototypes this device, that’s one thing you won’t be able to criticize it for.

Just because Apple applied for a patent doesn’t mean that device will become reality. More often than not, tech hardware patents are akin to covering your bases. Even making a prototype of the laptop is a far cry from bringing it to market. And Apple is infamous for abandoned projects, big and small.

But there’s something about this proposed hardware that rings true. Not only is Apple searching for a way to justify its bad decision to ignore touchscreen laptops, it’s also…

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