Apple’s plans for adaptive keyboard elements may go beyond replacing the function keys on the MacBook Pro with a touch sensitive OLED strip. A new report claims Apple wants Sonder’s E Ink-based keyboard system for future MacBook Pro models, and may be negotiating to buy Sonder the company.
Sonder is an Australian company with desktop and laptop computer keyboard designs that use E Ink technology to dynamically change what’s displayed on individual keys. Sonder’s technology makes it easy to change languages on the fly, or show app-specific function keys.
News of the keyboard technology first appeared on Reddit where user Foxconninsider said,
I work on Tsinghua university campus, it is like the Chinese MIT. It hosted a Foxconn event where I saw the new Macbook keyboard module design and Apple’s 2018 E Ink Magic Keyboard that’s a DFT model. (DFT is design for testing).
Reddit moderators claim they verified Foxconninsider’s identity. TrustedReviews contacted a Sonder spokesperson who said the company was at the Foxconn’s Innoconn demo day at the school, and that three laptop makers are in talks to use its keyboard technology.
“Sonder has been in discussions with Apple’s procurement board regarding Sonder’s laptop module,” the spokesperson added. “Foxconn International Holdings and E Ink Holdings—both strategic partners of Sonder Design Pty. Ltd. are assisting with the above discussions.”
The Reddit source claimed a Foxconn executive said Apple was “was closing an [Sonder] acquisition,” too. Apple and Sonder aren’t offering up any information to back up that claim.
Apple could use Sonder’s E Ink keyboard technology to make a universal language version of the MacBook Pro where the laptop’s keyboard changes when users set their preferred language. Currently, users choose which primary language they want when purchasing and the laptop comes with the appropriate keys.
There isn’t much evidence yet to back up Apple buying Sonder. Still, dynamically changing keyboards sound like a pretty useful feature for future MacBook Pro models.