The new cover shares a number of ideas in common with the MS Surface tablet's cover. It's going to be an input device, only Apple's concept integrates a second screen, and depending on how you hold it the contents of the screen could change from a keyboard, sketchpad, and more.
Has anyone figured out why Apple released these details? It's not in their nature to tell anyone anything.
Companies usually keep patents quiet because they don't want to give away ideas. Secrecy is the best way to release a product before the competition has a chance to copy the features. And given the fact that Apple is very secretive, you know they wouldn't share any details if they were still planning to release this accessory.
At least, that's what I'd think in the case of most patents, but with this patent I am not nearly as certain. I have a feeling that this patent paperwork only went public because of the Microsoft Surface. That tablet is also going to have its own Smarter Cover (with integrated trackpad and keyboard), and I could easily see Apple deciding to play a game of one-upsmanship. This patent was filed last year, so I wonder if Apple might be trying to make the point that they thought up the idea first.
This might simply be a case of someone inside Apple deciding to show that they're smarter than Microsoft. Pride, basically. And that little twist to the story is enough to make me less than certain whether we'll see this concept show up as an Apple product.
And I'm hoping that it does get released (perhaps even with the iPad Mini). this would be a useful tool. In any case, as cool as this would be from Apple I expect we'll soon see an aftermarket product that is about 2/3 as cool as Apple's concept. That might be good enough.