While everyone has ooohed and aaahed over the Touch Cover for Microsoft's forthcoming Surface tablet because it includes a built-in physical keyboard, Apple may already be preparing something that goes even further in adding features to what was once viewd as nothing more than a humble case.
It turns out that nearly a year ago -- August 11, 2011, to be exact -- Apple filed a patent for an iPad Smart Cover that not only includes a fabric keyboard, but also a built-in AMOLED display that the company claims could function "as an extended desktop." Among other applications, the patent says the display could be used for things like showing status messages or video player controls when the cover is bent back.
But Apple lays out a number of options for this new smart cover (this being the age of patent wars, after all). For instance, the patent illustrates a scenario where the cover includes "a touch screen integrated across a majority of a surface of the flap portion" [emphasis mine] or one where it has "an integrated auxiliary display and ambient power collectors" -- a.k.a, solar panels. There's also talk of it including a built-in battery and even "a small amount of storage space."
Not leaving any stone unturned, the application also claims the cover could connect to the iPad either through a wired port -- DisplayPort, mini DisplayPort, DVI, and Thunderbolt are listed as options -- or wirelessly through 802.11n Wi-Fi.
Of course, the patent filing doesn't mean Apple is close to producing such a Smart Cover -- or even planning to produce one at all. However, its revealing -- and the nasty patent fight the company is in with Samsung -- suggest that there could be a future legal tussle between Apple and Microsoft over the concept of a more functional tablet cover. Can Apple win a court fight with this seemingly all-encompassing patent application? Let us know your thoughts in the Talkback section below.