Apple’s foldable MacBook could be Mac’s iPhone X moment

These days it seems like every company and their dog is developing a folding device and trying to convince people that it’s going to be the next big thing. Now, Apple is apparently jumping on the bandwagon and ready to reveal a MacBook with 20-inch folding screen in 2026 or 2027. If it works out, this could be an even more seismic shift for the Mac than the transition to Apple’s silicon chips.

In fact, I’m thinking that a foldable-screen laptop could be Mac’s iPhone X moment: a product that completely resets an entire line of products, not just for Apple, but for the entire industry. That means there is a huge amount at stake.

A concept image of a MacBook Folio with a folding screen.

Last week’s news wasn’t the first time we’d heard that Apple was developing a foldable laptop. In February 2022, two reports followed in quick succession alleging exactly that, the first of visualization industry member Ross Youngthe second of Bloomberg Journalist Mark Gurman. Both claimed that the device would use an on-screen keyboard and that it might also come with a detachable physical keyboard.

That’s huge, because the biggest MacBook changes in recent years have been internal, namely with the introduction of Apple’s own processors. In fact, when Apple first released the M1 chip, the company put it inside the exact same MacBook Pro and MacBook Air chassis as Intel’s previous model chips. No, this foldable MacBook is going to be a radical departure from its predecessors. You can’t miss it.

The legacy of the iPhone X

Apple iPhone X review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The original iPhone rightly gets the plaudits as the phone that changed everything, but the iPhoneX, Apple’s first iPhone to lack a home button, was itself a huge moment for the smartphone industry. Suddenly everyone was scrambling to make a full screen device that would ditch the physical buttons and rely on gesture controls. Apple set the tone and everyone else fell in line.

If this folding-screen MacBook works, it could have a similar impact on the MacBook lineup. Like the iPhone in the mid-2010s, the MacBook is a mature device. His revisions are mostly minor: add a few more ports here, improve display there. Most of its innovations are now in-house (like Apple’s superb chips). It could use a major shakeup to keep things fresh on the outside.

And you know what that would do? A huge folding screen that ditching the physical keyboard in lieu of a virtual replacement. That would allow the keyboard to disappear when you don’t need it, providing more space on the screen for the best mac apps, games, movies or anything else you want. Imagine folding a MacBook into a giant drawing pad or monitor. It could transform the way you use the device completely.

The parallels with the iPhone X are strong. While the original iPhone eschewed a physical keyboard in favor of more screen real estate, it was still constrained by technology at the time and came with thick bezels and an inconspicuous home button. Meanwhile, the iPhone X was much closer to Steve Jobs’ vision for the iPhone. That gave it a lot of flexibility: You had more screen space for your content and a virtual keyboard when you needed it. It looks like the foldable MacBook could achieve something very similar, and that’s exciting.

a big risk

Foldable Macbook concept image created by LunaDisplay.

As you can imagine, there is also a great deal of risk involved. For one thing, losing the physical keyboard could be a death blow if Apple loses it. Touch typists would be outraged, and while rumors suggest Apple might include a separate keyboard with the device, that’s just one more thing to take with you. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

However, there might be a ray of hope. Apple has filed patents for a changing glass keyboard that molds into keys when needed. Sounds pretty space-age, but if Apple can build it into the foldable MacBook, we’d get the feel of a physical keyboard. Y a giant screen without the restrictions of traditional keys. We’d have our cake and eat it, as long as Apple gets it right.

This whole device is a huge risk, but so was the iPhone X, and that left an indelible mark on the smartphone industry that reaffirmed Apple’s leadership role in innovation. Apple CEO Tim Cook must be drooling at the prospect of repeating that with the MacBook line.

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