Keyboards remain the number one way to enter information into a computer; personal computer, tablet, or smartphone. Apple stunned the smartphone world with an onscreen keyboard which became the standard.
Guess what? Apple might do it again. Stun the industry with yet another virtual keyboard. On the Mac. The idea isn’t as crazy as you think and Apple already has a few patents in the works with a touch surface instead of a traditional keyboard.
Feel Me, Baby
A traditional, tactile keyboard is what you find on personal computers and notebook computers, and even add-on keyboards are available for tablets and smartphones. A virtual, onscreen keyboard is nothing new. Your iPhone has one. iPad has one.
The benefits to such a virtual onscreen keyboard is the ability to adjust or change the keyboard’s keys and functions on a per application basis. iOS does it all the time for various applications. Physical keyboards do not easily remap the keys. They can, but it’s somewhat painful and for a variety of reasons.
The negatives to a virtual onscreen keyboard are obvious, too. You just can’t get the feel and feedback for an onscreen keyboard as you can for a physical keyboard.
OK, what if you could marry both a physical hardware keyboard with an onscreen keyboard? That’s what Apple thinks is possible in a few recent patent filings.
Ipso facto and alakazam. A virtual keyboard where the physical keyboard used to be.
Simply put, the keyboard is a screen that you can type on. Because it’s a screen it can be changed by software to be any kind of screen than an application or operating system might need.
Think MacBook Pro Touch Bar gone wild.
The keyboard portion of the Mac notebook– and potentially, even desktop Macs– would be a screen. Now, if you’ve tried to type on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard you know the problem already.
Feel. Physical keyboards have a feel that onscreen keyboards do not. It’s a tactile response that our fingers learn which is not easily transferable to a flat screen. Apple has a solution for that, too. It’s called the haptic feedback. You feel it on various iPhone and Watch models, and Apple thinks it might work on a flat screen keyboard, too.
In other words, you type and feel the letters respond as you type– and respond means they would feel like a real physical keyboard.
Hey, it could happen?
Now, what does this have to do with Siri?
First, Apple’s patent filings mean that keyboards are not going away any time soon. It also means Siri isn’t quite ready to take over data or information input. Commands? Yes. Queries? Of course. But can you dictate a document or term paper or email by using Siri and get it done as fast and efficiently as you can on the keyboard? Yes only applies if you can’t type.
Siri as dictation recipient is a good alternative to typing. If you can’t type. An onscreen keyboard might be the perfect future Mac notebook. Or perfect addition to turn an iPad into a more Mac-like device.