Mobile Devices

January 28, 2014

How Green Was My Apple? Solar-powered MacBook May Be Coming

Apple patents have proven fertile ground for discussion in the past, even if said patents haven't always, or even all that often, made it to the physical product release stage. But one of the newest Apple patents has more than a few paying attention, as it represents an Apple product that's even greener than the ordinary: a MacBook powered by the sun itself.

The patent in question, at last report titled “Electronic device display module,” describes a portable computer which has a dual-sided lid. On one side of the lid is, pretty much as expected, the device's display system. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary as far as that goes, but things get particularly interesting when the matter of what's on the other side of that display.

The rear part of the display described in the patent is set to be made—though this could change down the line—of an electrochromic glass, otherwise known as “smart glass.” With smart glass, the glass can change shades depending on the level of ambient light around, letting more or less light through as needed. Several separate sub-elements could be introduced from there, including touchscreen controls, a logo for branding, and perhaps the biggest draw of all, photovoltaic cells that allow light—including that of the sun, but also from other sources—to be converted into electricity to help power the device.

While the photovoltaic cells likely wouldn't be enough to completely power the device by itself, it could still prove useful for that last little bit of power, or for charging for extended periods for use at night or the like. It actually joins an earlier Apple patent from last October, where it was discovered that Apple had patented a means to put solar power converters on other devices as well.

Naturally, an Apple patent does not necessarily mean a new Apple product to follow. There have been plenty of examples in the past of Apple patents that appear yet never really pan out into new products. But with some growing disconcerted over the overall lack of Apple product coming into play, and others noting that Apple hasn't made any really big jumps in terms of product development pretty much since the iPad came out, seeing something significantly different from the ordinary would likely prove a welcome development for Apple buffs getting tired of the overall Apple form factor.

With an overall economy that's still rather weak, and consumers watching pennies accordingly, getting people interested in buying the next iPhone might prove a tough call, especially if the old iPhone is still working well and the next iPhone lacks impressiveness. Apple's amazing brand loyalty will serve it well here, but even brand loyalty can only go so far in an environment where people are worried about jobs and the like. Something like this could be very useful to Apple, as it would make for an impressive new “wow factor” sort of development while also proving valuable to the consumer. No more charging an iOS device at night; simply set it in the sun—or in any well-lit room—and put juice back in it for the next day.

Again, this may never see the light of day—so to speak—but one thing is clear: Apple could stand a little more gee-whiz in its product lineup lest it lose the mystique it's worked so hard to build over the years. With third-party cases already bringing solar charging to the iPhone, making it available at the source may prove just the move Apple needs.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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