A patent unearthed today by the appropriately named Patently Apple shows a device Apple has been ignoring for years: the touchscreen desktop. But it's not an ordinary all-in-one desktop with a touchscreen, like HP's TouchSmart line or Lenovo's IdeaCentre line.
Instead, the patent's concept seeks to bring Apple's existing touch interface (in iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad) together with the more traditional Mac OS (seen in the MacBook and iMac line). Using a built-in accelerometer, the device would sense when it has been moved from a desktop to a tablet angle and switch its interface accordingly.
Apple merely calls this "a transition between input modes," so it's not clear if that means the entire OS would switch from Mac OS to iOS, or if it would merely enable touch sensitivity. There are some logistical problems with switching entire OSes--how would one's work carry over? Would the two OSes run simultaneously? And would iOS even make sense for a device with a screen as big as the iMac's (up to 27 inches, almost three times larger than an iPad)?
As with all patent uncoverings, we have to remind ourselves that there are several reasons to file a patent, just one of which is that the company that authored it actually intends to build the pictured product. Apple might just be protecting its own intellectual property, or it might be an experiment that went far along enough to warrant a patent. (Remember other patents like Apple's own "tingling" feedback screen.) But it's a really interesting concept, one which Apple is perhaps in a unique position to execute.