Apple has reportedly teamed up with an Australian startup to bring E Ink keyboards to its 2018 MacBook lineup. The new keyboards will have the ability to display any alphabet, plus special characters and emoji, according to sources familiar with the plans.
The technology was developed by Sonder Design, a company backed by Foxconn, one of Apple’s largest manufacturing partners. Using E Ink displays, like those in Amazon’s Kindle readers, the keyboards will have the ability to change the letters and characters displays on each key.
“Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, discussed the MacBook plans with the heads of Foxconn and Sonder on Oct. 11 in China,” reports The Wall Street Journal. This follows an earlier report from The Guardian which claimed Apple is in talks to acquire Sonder.
You can already buy keyboards that use E Ink displays to alter the characters on each key, but they’re expensive, which makes them uncommon. The Optimus Popularis keyboard by Art. Lebedev Studio, a Russian design studio, sells for more than $1,000.
Apple’s keyboard will reportedly be a standard feature in future MacBooks, starting with those that are set to arrive in 2018. It will be ideal for those who type in more than one language, frequently use special characters, and like to use emoji.
The keyboard will also be useful for displaying specialized commands for certain software. For instance, the keys could display functions in an app like Photoshop or Garageband, as well as actions inside a game.
Apple is already said to be planning an OLED touchbar for the MacBook Pro, which will allow users to customize its function keys. This is expected to make its debut with the next refresh, which will reportedly happen on October 27.
[via The Wall Street Journal]