Apple may be prepping a MacBook for 2018 that will offer an “E Ink” keyboard allowing users to quickly change what the keys display, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal that cites a person “familiar with the plans.”
For example, a user could quickly switch a keyboard from English characters to Japanese hiragana and katakana characters. Yet another mode, in a more whimsical vein, might allow the user to turn their entire keyboard into an array of emoji characters.
The report indicates that Apple may be working with Australian keyboard technology company Sonder, a company backed by frequent Apple partner Foxconn. Adding heft to the rumor is the fact that, just last week, the Guardian reported that Apple was in talks to acquire Sonder.
In a video demonstration posted on YouTube last week, Sonder’s E Ink keyboard is shown seamlessly making the transition from one set of characters to another on a single keyboard with transparent keys.
Oddly (in light of recent chatter), the only other video on Sonder’s YouTube page features a still image of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs with audio from 2007 talking about keyboard technology. It’s also difficult to ignore the fact that Sonder retweeted the Guardian report about the potential acquisition, without comment.
However, in response to the Guardian’s report of a meeting between Apple CEO Tim Cook and the Australian company, Sonder CEO Francisco Serra-Martins told Mashable a different story.
“I did not meet Mr. Cook last Wednesday,” said Serra-Martins. “Nor are we able to comment further on information on any single company or customer.”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Mashable.
Currently, the most frequent contact consumers have had with “electronic ink” is via e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle. Nevertheless, an increasing number of products have begun to incorporate some form of the technology, from smartphone cases to wearable devices.
Of course, predicting what Apple will release in 2018 is about as reliable as predicting an Apple Car.
And previous looks into the Sonder rumor have yielded skeptical reports. But based on the aforementioned indicators, it does appear that E Ink could be a part of some future Apple product.
If that happens, at the very least it would represent a renewed commitment from Apple to its desktop and laptop lines, even as some believe its increasing focus on the iPhone and iPad hints that other hardware might eventually fall off the Apple product list.