Apple patent pic revives touchscreen Mac buzz
To touch or not to touch
Just days after rumors of an impending touchscreen iMac were put to rest, a US patent application has been published that revives them once again — but with a twist.
The patent filing in question, "Integrated Touch Sensitive Display Gate Driver", describes a display system that can be switched between touchscreen and traditional display mode.
As the filing's title suggests, the application focuses on gate driver circuitry, and describes a system for allowing the gate driver to switch between touch and display modes. "Because display and touch capabilities can impose different requirements on the touch screen," the filing reads, "it can be challenging to mesh those requirements so that the touch screen can perform both display and touch capabilities effectively and efficiently."
Although the filing, at 42 pages, is unusally long for this class of application, it has at its core a relatively straightforward concept: the gate driver it describes can transmit LCD signals or receive touch-control signals by switching between those functions on the same signal path.
This 'exemplary' gate driver can switch between voltage supplies
The concept may be straightforward, but its implementations — or, in patentese, its embodiments — described in the filing require an EE-level understanding to fully grok.
What's clear to even the non-engineer, however, is that this filing is one more proof that Apple sees touchscreen control as central to its vision of the future — in this case by employing a gate-driver design that can "advantageously integrate display and touch circuitry in a more efficient effective manner, thereby realizing cost and power savings."
An "efficient effective" integration of standard and touchscreen displays that would be both cheap and power-miserly would help make the touchscreen iMac rumored to be in the works early this year more likely.
But after that rumor resurfaced, bolstered by an earlier patent that described a nifty tilt-and-slide base for a just such a touchscreen iMac, it was quickly snuffed by the company said to be providing Apple with display samples.
Today's filing, however, includes as its final illustration the following bit of rumor-restart temptation:
This may not be an iMac, but that laptop's display is most definitely labeled "Touch Screen"
First came the iPhone, then the iPod touch, then the iPad. Those three are all iOS devices, to be sure — but the earlier touchscreen iMac patent and today's filing make it clear that Apple is mulling over the possibility of a touchy future for its Mac line, as well. ®
Interestingly, this patent application doesn't list a person or company as its Assignee, as do the majority of such documents. It does, however, instruct that correspondence concerning the filing should be sent to "APPLE c/o MOFO LA", and the address given is that of the Los Angeles office of international mega–law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP, aka MoFo. No, not that MoFo — though some may argue an equivalence.
Mainly prior art and U.S. patent stuffing language
Actually I did scan the schematics when I got back to my office (where I had the correct viewer loaded) and I again reiterate nothing spectacularly new, as in new technology. ASICS are customised for most every application so that's a nothing.
The generalisation of the applicability is standard so that even the remotest similar use can be scooped into a patent licensing/fight at a later date. It is common practice. And what display can generate audio? Just literary fluff.
Last year I saw very large process control screens in China and they had a touch area which permitted touch/gesture from the screen to be input. The new Tibet railway system also uses touch/gesture screens so the prior art has been in use for some time. All have switched inputs - often for safety reasons.
Go and look at the Apple patent for their magnetic plug (US Patent No. 7311526) which is a total knock off of the connector used by Japanese counter-top cooking appliances except the Apple adaptation failed for several reasons.
US patents are frequently used tp attempt to adapt others works which is why there should be be an international agreement brining all patent offices into line using a single standard.
It's simply a switching array that can be ...
constructed with existing, off the shelf, integrated circuits. As I said the only variation is building it into a screen bur that increases the potential costs of warranty should the switch fail and require a complete change of a screen.
I remember the HP touch screen, drove users crazy as flies could land on a screen and take a walk causing chaos.
So pretty much...
"It appears that Apple, with it's pile of cash, just patents anything and if challenged (or used) they decide to evaluate the worth of a patent."
So pretty much like every other company in the world these days, then.
The key to the Patent Game is to have as large a portfolio as possible, so that if you infringe someone else's patent, you compare stacks, have a bigger stack than theirs, and you win (you then share some patents with each other and carry on your merry way).
They all do it.
Another garbage patent from Apple
Apart from the fact they appear to want integrate the switch in a single chip (hardly patentable in a sane Patents Office) , or even on the screen, the balance of the circuitry, for switching the signal(s) appears to be somewhat mundane, certainly not ground breaking. Besides if they are buying the screen from someone else the chances are that this technology might be covered, already.
It appears that Apple, with it's pile of cash, just patents anything and if challenged (or used) they decide to evaluate the worth of a patent.
Most companies only patent really original ideas but in the US it appears anything goes.
It would be interesting to learn what criteria have to be met within Apple in order to commence a filing.
quote "Comfort Eagle" by Cake