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RUMBLINGS: Apple pondering 'Touch Cover keyboard' for iPads

Will Cupertino follow Microsoft's, er, lead?

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Apple is said to have taken a page from Microsoft's less-than-successful Surface playbook and developed a keyboard cover – just like the Touch Cover for Redmond's tablet.

This rumor comes courtesy of Edinburgh blogger Jamie Ryan, formerly in developer relations for Apple, who reported on Saturday that "a couple of people at Apple" have told him that "a few different styles" of the keyboard-equipped case-cover-thing have "been in testing for a while."

Ryan notes that the devices in question are merely prototypes, and that he has no idea whether they'll be announced at Tuesday's Apple event, when new iPads are expected to make their appearance – or, for that matter, whether Cupertinian keyboard covers will ever make it past the prototype stage and onto fanbois' laps.

If iPad keyboard covers do ever hit store shelves, however, they'd help the 9.7-inch iPad differentiate itself from its little brother, the 7.89-inch iPad mini. An iPad with a keyboard would become more of a "Pro" version, aimed at users who actually want to do some work on their fondleslabs, and allowing the iPad mini to nestle more fully into its role as a content-consumption device.

It should be noted that Apple already makes a Bluetooth keyboard – the appropriately named $69 Wireless Keyboard – that works with the iPad, but it's a repurposed Mac-centric device, brushed aluminum and all.

Apple also sells a third-party wireless keyboard in its online store for use with the full-sized iPad – Logitech's $99.95 Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad – along with Incase's $29.95 Origami Workstation, which is designed to work with Apple's Wireless Keyboard.

There are also a plethora of other third-party iPad keyboards and keyboard cases available for the typing iPad user, including, for example, Zagg's $129.99 ZAGGkeys Profolio +, Belkin's $99.99 Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad, and ClamCase's eponymous $169 ClamCase Pro.

If Ryan is correct, however, Apple hopes to cash in on satisfying iPad users who want to get text into their beloved Cupertinian tablets without having to tap away on its on-screen, display-real-estate-covering software keyboard.

Microsoft says that its Touch Cover, by the way, will be upgraded to be more responsive when the Surface 2 goes on sale as Monday ticks over into Tuesday. A more keyboard-like Type Cover will also be available.

Whether Apple's "few different styles" that Ryan mentions include keyboards of the more type-friendly Type Cover variety is unknown.

After all, we're merely dealing with unsubstantiated rumors, eh? Tune in on Tuesday morning, San Francisco time, when Apple may or may not release new iPads that may or may not include keyboard covers that may or may not have full-travel keys that may or may not improve typing accuracy. ®

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