Is Apple Planning Touch-screen Macs?

Many a wide-eyed fanboy would love for Apple [NASDAQ:AAPL] to release a touch-based tablet. Fortunately for them, the touch technology coming out of the company's iPhone team makes the possibility of a touch Mac more likely than ever. Now new patents are revealing that the Cupertino computer maker is at least considering the idea.

The US patent application appears to cover a tablet-like computer, which seems to operate using the same multi-touch functionality that made the iPhone an international star.

Of course, Apple is known for patenting things they have no immediate intention of making, laying claim to ideas that might not materialize for years. In fact, Apple has flirted with slate computing before, apparently filing ancillary patents as far back as 2005 and 2006.

Skeptics are asking why Apple would want to venture into a space that, to date, hasn't shown much growth. Despite Bill Gates' sometime-ago prediction that all mobile computer would be tablets by this date, no one seems to really want a computer slower than a laptop, but almost the same size. To be sure, touch technology — especially pen input — has never made it to a solid, usable state. But it's possible that Apple is seeing an iPod-like opportunity in tablet computing: get into an existing space, and do a better product. It's certainly worked before.

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