Apple eyeing a portable device (an iPad?) with a flexible display
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Apple eyeing a portable device (an iPad?) with a flexible display

Three Apple patents have appeared at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that show Apple is working on ways to simplify the production of its various portable computing devices.

Patent number 20120194998 is for a portable computing device that can take many forms such as a laptop computer, a tablet computer, and so on. The portable computing device can include at least a single piece housing. The single piece housing can be machined from a single billet of material, such as a billet of aluminum. The single piece housing can include ledges with a surface receiving a trim bead and a cover. Corner brackets can be attached to the single piece housing to improve the damage resistance of the housing.

Here's Apple's background on the invention: "In recent years, portable computing devices such as laptops, PDAs, media players, cellular phones, etc., have become small, light and powerful. One factor contributing to this reduction in size can be attributed to the manufacturer's ability to fabricate various components of these devices in smaller and smaller sizes while in most cases increasing the power and or operating speed of such components. The trend of smaller, lighter and powerful presents a continuing design challenge in the design of some components of the portable computing devices.

"One design challenge associated with the portable computing device is the design of the enclosures used to house the various internal components. This design challenge generally arises from a number conflicting design goals that includes the desirability of making the enclosure lighter and thinner, the desirability of making the enclosure stronger and making the enclosure more esthetically pleasing. The lighter enclosures, which typically use thinner structures and fewer fasteners, tend to be more flexible and therefore they have a greater propensity to buckle and bow when used while the stronger and more rigid enclosures, which typically use more substantial structures and include fasteners, tend to be thicker and carry more weight. Unfortunately, however, the increased weight consistent with the more rugged enclosure can lead to user dissatisfaction whereas bowing of enclosures formed of lightweight material can result in damaging some of the internal components (such as printed circuit boards) of the portable device.

"Furthermore, the enclosures are mechanical assemblies having multiple parts that are screwed, bolted, riveted, or otherwise fastened together at discrete points. These assembly techniques typically complicate the housing design and create aesthetic difficulties because of undesirable cracks, seams, gaps or breaks at the mating surfaces and fasteners located along the surfaces of the housing. For example, a mating line surrounding the entire enclosure is produced when using an upper and lower casing. Moreover, the various components and complicated processes used to manufacture the portable device can make assembly a time consuming and cumbersome process requiring, for example, a highly trained assembly operator working with special tools.

"Another challenge is related to techniques for mounting structures within the portable computing devices. Conventionally, the structures have been laid over one of the casings (upper or lower) and attached to one of the casings with fasteners such as screws, bolts, rivets, etc. That is, the structures are positioned in a sandwich like manner in layers over the casing and thereafter fastened to the casing. This methodology suffers from the same drawbacks as mentioned above, i.e., assembly is a time consuming and cumbersome process.

"In view of the foregoing, there is a need for improved component density and associated assembly techniques that reduce cost and improve outgoing quality. In addition, there is a need for improvements in the manner in which handheld devices are assembled such as improvements that enable structures to be quickly and easily installed within the enclosure. It is also desirable to minimize the Z stack height of the assembled components in order to reduce the overall thickness of the portable computing device and thereby improve the overall aesthetic look and feel of the product.

The inventors are Stephen R. McClure, Sean S. Corbin, John P. Ternus, Kevin Gibbs, Jeremy C. Franklin, Elvis M. Kibiti, John Raff, Jules B. Henry, Benjamin Rappoport, Derek W. Wright, Erik A. Uttermann, Yu Ming and Carl Peterson.

Patent number 20120194997 is for the component assembly of such a device, while patent number 201201949393 involves an antenna, shielding and grounding for the manufacturing process.

Apple eyeing a portable device (an iPad?) with a flexible display
According to a new patent (number 2012019448) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, Apple is considering a tablet device with a flexible cover. If it ever comes to fruition, this could be what a future iPad is like.

Per the patent, thin flexible display technology can be integrated into the flexible cover without affecting the overall form factor of the cover or tablet device. Adding the integrated display to the flexible cover greatly enhances the overall functionality of the tablet device.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Recent advances in portable computing include the introduction of hand held electronic devices and computing platforms known generically as tablet devices. These devices can be used for any number of tasks including word processing, social media networking, video conferencing, and gaming. Although this type of device allows an extensive variety of tasks to be performed, the overall functionality of this device type still has room for improvement.

"For example, increasing the display area could lead to a significant expansion in functionality. Unfortunately, since displays already dominate a majority of one side of tablet devices, device manufacturers generally choose between making the display and therefore the device itself larger, thereby reducing the portability or making the device and display smaller with the result of a less functional device. Neither solution is desirable; therefore a way to extend the usability and functionality of a tablet device without making it any larger is desired.

"The paper describes many embodiments that relate to a method, apparatus, and, computer readable medium for extending the functionality of a tablet device to an accessory device with a flexible display.

"An accessory device that is arranged to communicate with a host device by way of a communication channel is claimed. The host device includes a host device display arranged to present visual information. The accessory device includes the following: a flexible flap having a size and shape in accordance with the host device display, where at least a portion of the flexible flap is covered by a flap display configured to present visual information; and a connecting portion, the connecting portion arranged to provide at least a communication channel arranged to convey information between the host device and the accessory device where at least some of the information is presented visually on the flap display.

"A method for passing information between a flexible accessory device and a host device is claimed. The flexible accessory device has a flexible display arranged to present a first set of visual information. The host device has a host device display arranged to present a second set of visual information. The method includes the following steps: (1) establishing a communication channel between the flexible accessory device and the host device, the communication channel arranged to provide a bi-directional communication link between the flexible display and the host device; (2) passing information between the host device and the flexible accessory device by way of the bi-directional communication link, where at least a portion of the passed information is presented by the flexible display as the first set of visual information; and (4) displaying the first set of visual information on the flexible display.

"A consumer electronic product including the following: (1) a host device having side walls which further includes: a magnetic attachment system including a first magnetic attachment feature, the first magnetic attachment feature enclosed within the host device near a sidewall; and (2) a flexible accessory device, which further includes: a hinge portion having a second magnetic attachment feature causing the hinge portion to magnetically attach to the sidewall of the host device, a body portion pivotally attached to the hinge portion, wherein when the body portion is magnetically attached to the host device, the body portion folds over a top surface of the host device in a closed configuration and wherein when a lifting force is applied to the body portion, the body portion unfolds to an open configuration exposing the top surface of the electronic device, and a display portion disposed on one surface of the body portion."

Fletcher R. Rothkopf is the inventor.

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