The iPad Smart Cover is a simple cover for the screen that has folds which permit use as a stand for the tablet. That's all it does and it does it well, but a recent patent award reported by Business Insider shows Apple wants it to do much more.
The drawings used for the patent application show the familiar cover with folds, but each panel between the folds has a smart screen for displaying information without opening the cover.
According to the patent filing the smart cover could be used for displaying notifications and interacting with apps. The drawings show three panels displaying a variety of information from different apps.
This ability could be leveraged in such a way to make using the iPad even better than it is now. Getting the information you want -- messages, email, etc. -- at a glance without opening the cover would be a very handy feature. Apps could add widgets for the cover to augment current functionality. The possibilities are wide open and hint at far-reaching capabilities.
While many of the technologies in Apple's patents don't come to market, this one may be an exception. This has real benefits for the user and probably would generate good sales for such a product. It would also appeal to app developers to add widget capabilities to apps.
On the flip side, a smart cover displaying notifications and other information could overlap the functions of the Apple Watch. The bigger displays on the patented cover could offer more utility than the Apple Watch. It will be interesting to see if Apple is willing to take the chance of fewer watch sales if it brings the cover to market.