So apparently that rumor of Apple using E-ink screens to give their laptops universal keyboards wasn’t as far-fetched as it sounded.
The WSJ reports that Apple will be using the screens starting in 2018:
Apple Inc. has teamed up with an Australian startup to turn the standard QWERTY keyboard into a blank slate.
The new keyboards will be a standard feature on MacBook laptops, and will be able to display any alphabet, along with an unlimited number of special commands and emojis, people familiar with the plans said.
Apple is aiming for a 2018 launch, these people said.
The WSJ also confirmed that Apple will be using the keyboard tech developed by Sonder Design. That Australian startup was mentioned in last week’s rumor, and for the past year it has been developing an Apple-ish keyboard which is now scheduled to ship this quarter with a price of $199.
Here’s a GIF which shows a simulation of the keyboard in action. The KB won’t actually be able to shift its displays this fast, although it should be able to offer a diverse range of alternate layouts.
The Macbook has a different keyboard, of course, and its display will have to be larger.
Customers have already expressed interest in the idea, and some are signing up for the pre-order.
“It will be very useful for polyglots,” on reader explained in the comment section at TDR. I write emails regularly in English, Japanese, French and Chinese and find it a pain to switch keyboards on a regular computer. This is the reason why I use a tablet for my emails using the multilingual keyboard.”
Another noted that as a French speaker living in Sweden, they needed both a Swedish and an English keyboard for their daily work. It was actually easier to use an iPad, they said, rather than switch physical keyboards.
Me, I think it’s too small. Laptop keyboards are fine when you have nothing better, but if you’re going to for a USB keyboard then why not build it full size?