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Your next MacBook could have an e-ink keyboard, if Apple closes this deal

Sonder keyboard
Apple is reportedly in negotiations to acquire Australian startup Sonder, which produces a unique e-ink keyboard with distinctly Apple-inspired design sensibilities. The negotiations have been confirmed by sources within Sonder, though a final deal has yet to be announced.

The Sonder Keyboard features an e-ink display beneath transparent plastic keys, allowing users to customize the keyboard to their liking. While the keyboard is not out just yet, it is currently available for pre-order, though an acquisition by Apple might interfere with its plans to release the keyboard as a stand-alone product.

The keyboard would make an interesting addition to the Apple lineup, particularly considering the recent rumors that a customizable OLED touch strip is planned for the upcoming MacBooks. According to 9to5 Mac, the Sonder Keyboard could be slated for inclusion in a MacBook at some point in the future, as Apple continues to explore dynamic input devices, but it is unlikely we would see it soon.

Sonder currently produces a laptop module for their e-ink keyboard and the company claims three laptop manufacturers are in talks to license the technology. So the laptop compatible e-ink keyboard is clearly more than a concept at this point.

Still, Apple is expected to unveil a new slate of MacBooks later this month and even if the Sonder acquisition closes by then, we likely will not see the technology integrated into Apple products for at least one or two more MacBook generations.

According to sources close to the negotiations, the technology Apple is interested in differs from the upcoming consumer version of the keyboard significantly. The current Sonder Keyboard uses a non-backlit e-ink display beneath the alphanumeric keys, while the version Apple is reportedly being shown features a set of fully dynamic and backlit keys.

The talks with Sonder were reportedly carried out by Apple’s procurement board with assistance from Foxconn International Holdings, Sonder’s parent company, and E-Ink Holdings.

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Jayce Wagner
Former Digital Trends Contributor
A staff writer for the Computing section, Jayce covers a little bit of everything -- hardware, gaming, and occasionally VR.
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