Report: Apple Testing Touchscreen iMacs

Apple has been sent test samples of a 20” touchscreen that could be used in an iMac by a Taiwan-based manufacturer called Sintek Photronics. Taiwanese newspaper DigiTimes reported that the firm had sent the displays to Apple, and that Apple is working on incorporating them into a new version of the iMac.

The report said that the displays have an integrated cover glass and touch sensor system, and that this has resulted in a “good vertical and horizontal viewing angle.” This solution contrasts with traditional solutions that have touch sensors that are placed on top of the glass, which DigiTimes’ sources characterized as “costly and complex, [and negatively] affects display brightness.”

As we usually note in these kind of stories, DigiTimes is often the source of leaked reports that come from some of the many Taiwanese vendors Apple works with in its outsourced manufacturing operations. Such reports have a mixed track record, but the newspaper has been right about many details of the iPad and iPhone product lines in recent years.

That said, we should also point out that even if Apple is testing a product, it doesn’t mean it will be brought to market soon, if ever. Apple executives have repeatedly commented that they were just as proud of the products they have not brought to market as they were of the fabulously successful products they have.

At the same time, of course, rumors began circulating in January of this year that Apple was working on such a device, and AppleInsider noted that the company has patents and patent applications (see image below) that cover the various aspects of a touchscreen iMac. With both of those points in mind, it is very plausible that Apple is at least testing something relating to a touchscreen desktop computer.

Which brings us to the crux of the situation: Would a touchscreen iMac be an iMac running Mac OS X or some kind of new iOS-based device?

Apple is known to obsess over getting interface issues just right before releasing them to the general public, and with such an enormously big paradigm shift as a touchscreen, general purpose desktop computer — remember that Apple never caters to vertical markets — it would be impossible for those of us on the outside to even guess at how much testing would go into a such a product before even Apple could make that determination.

Touchscreen iMac Figure in Apple Patent

A figure from an Apple patent governing switching modes of operation for a desktop computer

(Patent link via PatentlyApple)