The iMac Touch patent: brilliant next step for Apple or flawed concept?

PatentlyApple.com

There've been some rumblings and rumors that Apple is having such success with iOS devices that it is planning to roll it out to other, larger hardware. I haven't been paying too much attention to this; it just didn't seem likely that Apple would drop OS X. But then a friend pointed me at a post at patentlyapple.com, a site I wasn't familiar with before now. Yesterday they dug into a January 2010 patent that describes an iMac-like device that switches from OS X to iOS based on orientation. When the screen is vertical the computer works like a typical OS X iMac, but you can flip the screen horizontal then swing it down and forward and blammo! it switches to iOS for games, e-book reading or whatever else you'd like to do on a touch device.

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Now the folks at PatentlyApple think this is a tremendous idea. I'm not so sure. I mean, I find it to be interesting tech, but the beauty of an iPad is in its portability. Use it on the living room couch, on the back deck (well, assuming there's no direct sunlight), while lying in bed, or in the kitchen to help prepare a new recipe. Once you tie the tablet down to the office where your iMac sits, a lot of the magic goes away. To do this tech right, I think Apple has to regress a little bit to the days when an iMac had a lot of its internals in a base unit, then make the screen/tablet part as light as possible and easily detachable. Your mouse, keyboard, external hard drive and whatever else you have hanging off your system would all plug into the base unit. You could still use the tablet parts while attached to the rest if you wanted to, but as an option you could unplug and walk away. That sounds a lot more appealing to me (though this would only be practical for small-display iMacs). I also wonder how the dual-OS would work. Would it work like a virtual machine with certain files shared between OSes? But iOS doesn't really have a (user-accessible) file system, so how would you access OS X files from iOS? I guess there'd be an app for that. The patent is fascinating in that it poses more questions than it answers. What do you think? Is this kind of convertible computer something that appeals to you, or would you rather just have two separate devices?

One of several patent illustrations showing how the device would work

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