Apple is possibly working on plans to equip its MacBook laptops with dynamic E Ink keyboards by 2018, according to The Wall Street Journal. Apart from displaying the standard QWERTY layout, such a keyboard can be used to display different alphabets and context-sensitive buttons for software like Photoshop.
What will the dynamic keyboard from Apple be like?
Citing sources familiar with the plan, the WSJ reports that the iPhone maker is collaborating with Sonder, an Australian startup which is releasing its own Bluetooth E-Ink keyboard later this year.
Apple’s keyboard, though it would be a standard feature, will appeal to users who use more than one language like students and international businessmen. Also the versatility of the device will be welcomed by people using software with specialized commands, like gamers and graphic designers. For regular users, Apple’s keyboard will make communications more fun with the help of “emojis and other symbolic substitutes for words,” says the WSJ.
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Other supporting evidence
The WSJ also references a recent report from The Guardian which claimed that the U.S. firm is in talks to acquire the Australian startup. The Guardian claims that Tim Cook met with Francisco Serra-Martins, Sonder’s chief executive, in China last week. However, Sonder denies any such thing happened.
The U.K. paper also talks of a Reddit post (now deleted), in which the user claimed to have used the Apple E Ink keyboard prototype based on Sonder’s technology. According to the Reddit post, the keyboard was spotted at a tech incubator event organized by Foxconn and had back-lighting and an E Ink display on each key. According to the WSJ, Foxconn, a key Apple supplier, is a soon-to-be investor in Sonder.
Talking of the keyboard, the Reddit user said, “It’s really a solid indication of the future of input technology. Apple has a reputation of making big leaps which are seen to be unpopular but then become the new standard. Dynamic keyboards are the standard for phones, they will be for laptops and desktops too.”
Also, according to The Verge, a tipster contacted it claiming to be a friend of the Reddit user who used the keyboard. However, the authenticity of the story has yet to be confirmed.
Evidences but nothing foolproof
Although interesting, all these reports must be taken with a grain of salt. There’s no hard evidence of Apple including Sonder’s technology in the MacBook or it acquiring the startup. Even The Guardian’s report of Cook’s meeting with Sonder CEO lacks evidence. And even if its true, a meeting does indicate much, notes The Verge. Also there is no proof for the Reddit story as the user furnished no images or video of the device.
Over the years, a few customizable keyboards have been made available,such as the Optimus Popularis keyboard by Art. Lebedev Studio, a Russian design firm. However, the product failed to go mass-market owing to its premium price tag of over $1,000, notes the WSJ.
Nevertheless, amid all these rumors, there is one winner – Sonder, whose E Ink keyboard is getting all the attention. The keyboard is now available for pre-order for $199.