Apple is well known for their boldness in removing features and parts from their products. It has killed optical drive and firewire before. There is assumption that they will eventually kill keyboard in the future.
Instead of killing keyboard, I think Apple will change how people perceive and use keyboard. This MacBook Air will replace the keyboard area with a solid glass displaying virtual keyboards. Let’s pretend that we replace the keyboard with an iPad displaying keyboards.
So, this piece of MacBook Air would be flat and very slim by eliminating the needs to install keyboard — no more keypads for you to press. Imagine the numbers of simple and beautiful features can be achieved from this approach.
One of the common problems I encounter is trying to insert special characters I rarely use. Most of times, I’ve to google which shortcuts are needed or I can insert it manually by firing Special Characters window.
Another example would be showing what we can type while holding opt+shift. So, if I hold these two buttons, the keyboard will display every special characters on the virtual keyboard.
The virtual keyboard can also add interactive elements depending on the currently active app. For example, while you’re using Photoshop, the keyboard would display the shortcuts icons instead of letters. Or, while you’re using iTunes, the keyboard will display icon for pausing, skipping, and adjusting volume.
This virtual keyboard can also serve as a indicator such as whether the iTunes is currently in shuffle mode. If it is under shuffle mode, the shuffle icon on the keyboard would light up. Toggling on and off would be very easy without the need to use mouse.
There are many ways how Apple can turn this area for more iOS control. Yes, you can sign on the whole keyboard, you can doodle, you can play Tap-Tap Revenge with custom interface. And guess what, you’re doing all of them horizontally instead of vertically — Steve Jobs stated touch screen for MacBook is a big no-no because of the vertical position.
I’m excited. Perhaps this is just my another silly thought on how MacBook Air would look like in the future.