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Apple may be working on a crazy modular MacBook with 3 screens

The Framework laptop has shown that modular laptops can offer something really compelling to customers, and it seems that Apple might have taken notice. That’s because a newly granted patent (number 11709527) suggests the Cupertino, California company is considering a modular MacBook that could let you come up with all kinds of crazy combinations of screen, keyboard, and more.

For example, some of the illustrations in Apple’s patent document show a device with two displays, with the MacBook keyboard replaced entirely by a second screen. This display could be used as an Apple Pencil input area or as a virtual keyboard, something we know Apple is already working on.

Apple's 15-inch MacBook Air placed on a desk.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

Two screens not enough? Apple’s patent also shows an idea where a future MacBook could come with three displays. There would be the standard upright panel for displaying content, then two smaller ones below (in the place where the keyboard would normally sit). The topmost of these displays could show content such as emails or a web page, Apple says, while the lower one could comprise a virtual keyboard.

But perhaps the strangest concept listed in Apple’s patent shows an arrangement that could appeal to musically minded MacBook fans. This idea shows that instead of a physical keyboard, a modular MacBook could be connected to a record player or a turntable. Yes, you could work the decks right on your MacBook, with a display hooked up to the base of the turntable so you can presumably monitor your audio output in real time.

Apple has plenty of other ideas in its patent, including joining two screens together and sitting them upright like a book, then using a wireless keyboard to type on the device.

Will Apple ever make a modular laptop?

Apple says the elements in its modular MacBook designs could be connected together using magnets. The company has already implemented magnetic connectors in the past, such as the Smart Connector on the iPad Pro or the MacBook’s MagSafe cable, but this new idea would probably need a stronger connection to hold all the pieces reliably in place.

It’s an interesting patent considering how conservative Apple often is with its device designs. While other companies might put out modular laptops or other experimental products, Apple often sits back and waits until it is confident it can take the lead once the market is a bit more settled.

This patent, though, shows that the company is willing to push the boundaries of conventional laptop designs — or is at least toying with the idea. Whether we’ll actually ever see it come to fruition, however, is another matter.

Alex Blake
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