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Apple Patent Suggests 'iMac Touch'

Apple has filed a patent application that indicates the company is looking to bring iPhone- and iPad-like touch capabilities to its Mac line of desktop computers.

The patent was filed last month with European patent authorities. It outlines plans for a desktop that can be controlled through traditional, mouse-based input, or through touch commands. The system also features an adjustable stand that allows the screen to be converted from a vertical position to a more horizontal angle more suitable for tablet-style input.

The patent lists the inventor as Apple hardware engineering manager Paul Costa. Apple has not commented on its plans for the patent, which was first spotted by bloggers at Patently Apple.

Apple isn't the only system vendor looking to bring touch to mainstream computing. Microsoft is touting Windows 7's native support for touch applications, and a number of hardware makers have added touch-based Windows 7 PCs to their product lineups.

Patents can be a revealing source when it comes to vendors' future product plans—particularly when it comes to a company as infamously secretive as Apple.

Earlier this week a patent was disclosed that shows Apple is developing a so-called kill switch that could disable iPhones that get into the hands of unauthorized users.

The patent covers a range of uses that Apple considers to be illegitimate, including "hacking, jailbreaking, unlocking, or removal of a SIM card," according to the application, filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The patent, which would also apply to the iPod Touch and iPad, also covers measures to identify the unauthorized user.

"A photograph of the current user can be taken, a recording of the current user's voice can be recorded, the heartbeat of the current user can be recorded, or any combination of the above," the patent states. "The photograph, recording, or heartbeat can be compared, respectively, to a photograph, recording, or heartbeat of authorized users of the electronic device to determine whether they match," the application continues.

"Sensitive information can be erased from the electronic device" if an unauthorized user is detected, the patent states.

The jailbreaking issue came to a head earlier this month after a hacker who goes by the name "comex" released an app, called Jailbreakme 2.0, that makes it easy for users with limited technical skills to run unauthorized, third-party apps on their iPhones.