Last week we heard news (opens in new tab) that Apple was working with Australian startup Sonder on adopting a keyboard featuring e-ink keys capable of dynamically changing on the fly – and it seems this technology will be brought on board MacBooks in the not-too-distant future.
According to sources who spoke to the Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab), Apple will incorporate the nifty keyboards into MacBooks that launch in 2018.
In other words, the year after next, Apple’s laptops will sport e-ink keyboards with the ability to morph keys into any different language or characters – so you’ll be able to have an emoji keyboard, for example, or layouts that are designed for specific apps or games with custom keys (and indeed keys for specific macros, which allow for a single press to execute multiple commands).
The WSJ reported that Apple CEO Tim Cook was in China last week chewing over the plans for the MacBook with representatives from Sonder and Foxconn (the latter of which backs the Australian firm – and indeed a prototype model of the e-ink keyboard was shown off at a Foxconn event over at Tsinghua University in China).
- But will the new keyboard ship with the iMac 2016?
Wonder about Sonder
And as the Journal further notes, there has also been previous speculation that Apple might acquire Sonder. That could still happen, but it will presumably be something that goes ahead soon if it is on the cards.
Of course, we must remember that the MacBook e-ink keyboard itself is still speculation at this point, albeit from a very solid source now. And it’s backed up by last week’s rumors, which centered on the next Magic Keyboard that will seemingly also get the morphing key treatment.
The new MacBook Pro for this year is supposedly set to debut at an Apple press event next week – alongside a revamped MacBook Air – and the laptop grapevine has it that the Pro will come with some shape-shifting keys in the form of an OLED touchbar which adapts in context-sensitive manner to the app currently being run.
This will take the place of the top row of function keys, and it looks like this is the first step on the path of keyboard wizardry which Apple plans to tread with upcoming MacBooks.