Apple is best known for its series of personal computers, phones (iPhone) and various innovative products. It first introduced the Macintosh (Mac) computer back in 1984, which was widely sold as a personal computer. One thing that makes a Mac different from other desktop computers is that it comes with a display unit, which makes it an all-in-one PC. It was the most successful all-in-one desktop computer of that time. Since then Apple is working on various technologies to come up with new innovative products like the Magic keyboard. First released in 2015, this keyboard comes with wireless connectivity and with a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. This keyboard can be connected to any Mac computer using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. However, the Mac computer is not portable like the magic keyboard, and it would take a lot of time and effort to disconnect and reconnect the cables attached with the computer while moving it from one location to another. To resolve this problem, Apple engineers came up with an idea to make a portable computer like the Magic keyboard. The US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple (reported on www.patentlyapple.com), that relates to a completely new computer device concept. According to the patent, Apple has invented a Magic keyboard like computer and it’s a keyboard that houses the whole computer – System on a Chip (SOC), Memory, storage and the battery.
Features and design
According to the patent, Apple will use a SOC computer to make the keyboard work as a Mac computer and it will be powered by a Lithium-ion battery, which will be rechargeable via a power source. This will be having a memory and a storage like a mobile computing device or a smartphone.
The main concept behind this is to make the Mac computer portable and free from cables. The keyboard of this computer will be having a trackpad, which would eliminate the need for a mouse. The integration of small scale computing devices like the SOC and the keyboard, can include features, design and architecture of a traditional computing device but reducing the form factor with improved performance. Another advantage of using such SOC devices is the low power consumption and less heating issues. Most mini computers with SOC components can run on voltage between 3.3V-5V with an average power consumption. As the SOC board integrates both the Central Processing Unit (CPU) and the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), it becomes a very portable small sized computer. Besides that, the components of a SOC computer dissipates less heat and don’t cause much overheating problems. That’s why most SOC computers don’t require a conventional cooling fan, but only require a fan-less cooling system (using copper pipes and heat sinks). Even though cooling fans are not used in some SOC computers, air ventilation is extremely necessary and optimum air flow is still needed for the SOC components to work properly.
In the Apple’s Mac keyboard design, the engineers have thought of a better cooling system and kept better cooling vents. The enclosure of the keyboard would be having two airflow vents – one vent will intake air from the ambient environment and that air will flow through the internal volume of the enclosure, carrying the heat and then will come out from the other vent, reducing the internal temperature of the computer.
However, this Mac keyboard would still require a display device like the LCD/LED display and need to be connected using a cable only. This will be almost like carrying a laptop without the display and not going to win over the MacBook – the most popular laptop from Apple.
Pros and cons
This innovative product from Apple will obviously eliminate the problems of a bulky desktop computer, but it can still have a few pros and cons:
- This Mac keyboard computer can easily be carried anywhere, and is an alternative to a travel laptop because of its lightweight and portable design.
- It won’t consume much power – thanks to the energy efficient technology used in the SOC design.
- Can be recharged easily using a power source like a mobile charger.
- When compared with other mini PCs, the Mac keyboard becomes a winner because it integrates both computer and a keyboard (with trackpad), which make it easier to use, eliminating the need of any external keyboard/mouse connection.
- A Mac desktop computer comes with a display, because of it’s all-in-one PC design. But this design also unnecessarily makes the computer bulky and difficult to carry. On the other hand, the Mac keyboard could be used with any standard display device of any size through a video interface like the HDMI. This design of a keyboard with a Mac computer will also lower the price and you won’t have to pay unnecessarily for the display device, but a Mac desktop can’t be cheap because it comes with a display, which makes it over priced.
- Even though the Mac keyboard is portable, this computer will still have one of the most common problems that most portable devices have – prone to accidental damage (physical damage from drops/shocks or conductive liquid spills), and getting lost or stolen.
- A desktop computer can be upgraded or configured by installing various on board components like the processor, memory, storage, graphics card, etc. But it’s not possible to easily change the components of a SOC computer, and requires Surface Mount Technology (SMT) techniques for upgradation or repair. As the Mac keyboard computer would come with a SOC computer, incase of any onboard component damage, the whole SOC board has to be repaired, and this could cause a downtime for the user.
- A Mac keyboard computer could beat a desktop computer in terms of portability and can be as convenient as a laptop or a smartphone for traveling purposes, but it still lacks a display device, and would still require a display device like LED/LCD monitor or TV for the video output. Moreover, the computer won’t be that convenient like a laptop (which can be used with the comfort of a desired location by the user), because it will be wired to the display device.
- As the Mac keyboard computer would be having an integrated keyboard, the whole computer might become useless, if the keyboard becomes inoperative.
A wireless display is a technology that uses radio signals to connect a display device like the LCD/LED monitor/TV to a video source (usually a computer), from a remote location. And using such a wireless video technology for connecting a computer to a display device could make a computer work from a convenient location. Currently, High Defination (HD) video can be transmitted from a source to a display device, using Wireless HD technology. There are various protocols and standards used by different manufacturers to implement this technology in their products. Most of these are proprietary including LG “Wireless 1080p”, Philips “Wireless HDTV Link”, Sony “Bravia Wireless Link”, Asus “Wireless Display Connectivity”, Asus WAVI (Wireless Audio Video Interaction) wireless HDMI, and the video compression schemes that work over 802.11n and similar wireless interfaces. Other wireless technologies like WirelessHD, Wireless Home Digital Interface and the WiGig are trying to become industry standards. Such HD wireless transmission technologies use unlicensed 5 GHz, 60 GHz or 190 GHz radio frequencies.
The Wi-Fi direct technology works by transmitting data between a source device and a sink device. The source device can be a laptop or a smartphone, which will contain the content (audio/video file). This content goes through processing like composition of audio/video frames, graphics and text. It is then encoded and sent via Wi-Fi as an audio/video payload. The sink device receives the payload via Wi-Fi, and decodes it back to audio/video data and renders it for playback on a display device. Simultaneously, the device control (capability negotiation and session maintenance is done along with the encoding/decoding process) is done.
The above process of P2P Wi-Fi connection is also used by Miracast to connect a display device with a computer. Miracast is a standard for wireless connections from sending devices (such as laptops, tablets, or smartphones) to display receivers (such as TVs, monitors, or projectors), introduced in 2012 by the Wi-Fi Alliance (a non-profit organization that owns the Wi-Fi trademark). Even Though there are various wireless HD technologies used in many products in the market, the basic working principle of a P2P Wi-Fi connection is almost the same. Miracast is supported by various Operating Systems (OS) like Windows 10/11, Linux, Android and Blackberry OS, but not supported by macOS and iOS.
Therefore, any portable device with a supported OS can use Miracast or any Wi-Fi direct adapter to wirelessly connect a display device like the LCD/LED monitor or a TV. But the Mac keyboard computer would still require a wired connection with the display device, making it a loser with it’s portable features. Even Though Apple has its own direct Wi-Fi technology called the AirPlay to connect a Mac product with the AppleTV, it’s not as compatible as Miracast, because Miracast can still be used with many devices, and it’s a standard technology certified by Wi-Fi Alliance.
The Mac keyboard computer would have been better if it supported wireless connection with the display device. If the computer supported Miracast then it was also possible to connect it with other Miracast supported devices. Moreover, if Apple makes the Mac keyboard computer with an integrated wireless HDMI transmitter to connect with any HDMI display device using a wireless HDMI receiver (supplied with the computer), then it would be a piece of cake!
Author: Debojit Acharjee
The author is a software engineer and likes to geek about various software technologies. Apart from that, he also likes writing articles related to science and technology. He has written many articles related to software technology and computer science, and has knowledge about various software technologies like Robot Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML), blockchain, DevOps, database management, and also knows many programming languages. Besides that, he also knows about various multimedia software used for audio/video editing and production purposes. His passion for computers makes him work hard, and he believes that success comes in life only through hard work and good skills.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @debojitacharjee