By Chand Bellur
May 5, 2020 at 1:52 p.m. PT
- The Magic Trackpad is Apple’s external pointing device, designed for macOS.
- 2015 saw the refreshed Magic Trackpad 2, adding Force Touch haptic feedback technology.
- Patents show that Apple may be adding wireless charging and Apple Pencil support to the next Magic Trackpad.
Apple’s Magic Trackpad Fuses Hardware with Software
Although the first mouse was developed in 1964 by Douglas Engelbart, technology firms ignored the device for almost two decades. Despite popular belief, the Macintosh was not the first computer with a mouse. The Xerox Alto, a machine that never found its way to market, was one of the first computers coupled with the ubiquitous pointing device.
The Xero Alto inspired the Macintosh — a detail often lost in history. In fact, Steve Jobs hired some of the Alto engineers to spearhead Macintosh development. Most of the Mac’s user interface advancements stemmed from the Alto, including its iconic mouse.
Flash forward a few decades, and the mouse became a fixture on virtually every computer. The ubiquitous pointing device became stale, and as laptop computers emerged, cumbersome.
Laptop computers posed a significant problem for the mouse. Designed to operate in the field, laptop users might not always have a desk or flat surface to maneuver a mouse. The first solution, the trackpad, was obvious yet cumbersome. While the controller may work well for a game of Centipede, it’s not the best way to navigate a user interface.
Apple, even during their less glorious days, pushed design forward unlike any other company. In May of 1994, the Cupertino tech company unveiled the first laptop computer with a trackpad — the PowerBook 500. The laptop embraced many new technologies; however, the trackpad was the most obvious and enticing. It proved to be a massive hit with customers.
For a long time, only laptop and notebook computers used trackpads. Some PC makers developed standalone trackpads for Windows machines. These devices operated exactly like a mouse, with no capability for advanced gestures.
Apple has always enjoyed the advantage of making tightly-coupled hardware and software. Unlike the Windows world, Apple can fully realize hardware capabilities. In 2010, Apple launched the first Magic Trackpad, alongside new gestures for OS X. The combination created a unique and powerful user experience, unlike anything on the market.
Next Magic Trackpad May Charge iPhone
Reliable rumors suggest that Apple’s next Magic Trackpad will be a great leap forward. A slew of patents indicate that Apple will bring wireless charging and Apple Pencil support to the next Magic Trackpad.
Patent illustrations seem to indicate that the next Magic Trackpad will attach directly to the Magic Keyboard. Using a magnetic fastener, the new trackpad can serve as a wireless charger for the iPhone. It will also function as an active drawing surface for the Apple Pencil.
Apple Pencil support is a bit surprising. Such a move could cannibalize sales from the iPad. For now, the iPad is the only way to use the Apple Pencil, and it may drive graphics professionals to adopt the popular tablet.
No one knows what Apple will unveil next. The company is known to patent features that never see the light of day. It’s entirely possible that the Magic Trackpad may serve as a wireless charging device. It could also offer Apple Pencil support. Apple takes the Magic Trackpad seriously, and the device is overdue for a refresh. It may just be the wireless charging solution that iPhone users have been anticipating.