Did Apple just patent a Surface Studio clone?

Microsoft Surface Studio 2
(Image credit: Future)

What you need to know

  • Apple filed a patent for a "low profile computer" recently.
  • The patent is a continuation of earlier applications from Apple and shows a computer with a display that can be placed into different positions and angles.
  • Despite the patent not mentioning touch specifically, its publication has led many to discuss the possibility of Apple releasing a Mac desktop with support for touch.
  • The computer design shown in the patent is similar to that of Microsoft's Surface Studio, at least when focusing on the form factor and the inclusion of a hinge.

Apple filed a patent recently that has many discussing the future of Mac desktops. The patent shows a computer with a display that can pivot into various positions, leading many to compare the designs to Microsoft's Surface Studio. While the possibility of an iMac or any Mac desktop supporting touch seems low, the patent serves as an interesting opportunity to discuss Apple hardware and the Surface Studio.

The patent was published on March 7, 2024 and reported on by Patently Apple. The patent includes dozens of images with varying designs, but the images below show the general concept, a computer with a display that can be positioned at different angles. The design could be beneficial to artists and creators.

Apple patent for computer with pivoting display

Images from a recently published Apple patent show a computer design with a pivoting display. (Image credit: Apple)

As is the case with many patents, the text in Apple's patent covers a broad range of topics. Everything from handles on a computer to pivot for the display is covered by the patent. Also, this general concept has been around in Apple patents since 2010, as highlighted by Patently Apple. The recent filing is a continuation of an earlier patent that was also a continuation of an earlier patent. Some of those patents have since been abandoned, but the concept has been around for years.

Companies often file patents for technology that never sees the light of day, so there's no guarantee that the designs shown in this recent patent will be used in a future device. Additionally, companies often use very specific elements mentioned in a patent, so we could see a Mac featuring just a few things mentioned in this patent.

A Mac that supports touch?

iMac 2023

Apple's 2023 iMac has new internals but an incredibly dated external design. (Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future / Apple)

While anything is possible, it seems unlikely that Apple will release a Mac that supports touch, at least any time soon. The recent patent doesn't even mention touch support from what I see. Speculation on a new Mac being a Surface Studio competitor comes largely from the fact that the computer in the patent looks similar to a Surface Studio. Even if Apple releases a device based on the designs in this patent, it could just be a computer with a display that can be placed at different angles.

The other outlets covering the patent highlighted the omission of touch in the patent text as well. I think many of us are just intrigued by the potential of a Mac that lets people interact with the computer using a keyboard, mouse, or touch. Apple has been famously hesitant to add touch support to macOS, even with the rollout of iOS app support on macOS for select applications.

Even if Apple just refreshed the design of the iMac and left touch support behind, that would be a welcome change. The iMac has a dated design that is lightyears behind the look of the Surface Studio. A more elegant iMac with a display that could be placed in different postures would be a lovely computer, especially with Apple silicon inside.

A new Surface Studio

Surface Studio 2

Microsoft's design of the Surface Studio has remained largely the same since the first generation of the device. (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft released the Surface Studio 2+ in October 2022. That PC had outdated specs at launch, and it has only fallen further behind in that category since. The Surface Studio 2+ was a minor refresh that upgraded performance and thermal design. But as its name suggests, the Surface Studio 2+ wasn't a full generation upgrade over the Surface Studio 2.

The hardware of the Surface Studio lineup has always been gorgeous. Years ago, I used an original Surface Studio as my daily computer, and I wish I still had one. What the device family has lacked is the latest internals. Microsoft often shipped new Surface Studio PCs with aging hardware. Using "laptop" variants of Intel's CPUs hasn't helped the Surface Studio lineup either, at least when it comes to raw performance.

I'd argue that a Surface Studio monitor would give people the opportunity to use the gorgeous and flexible hardware of the Surface Studio with whatever PC they'd like, but I admit that solution isn't as elegant as an All-in-One. Perhaps Microsoft could refresh the Surface Studio lineup with new internals from Intel and NVIDIA. If the company really wants to go wild, Microsoft could make a version of the Surface Studio with a Snapdragon X Elite.

While Microsoft has a Surface event coming up on March 21, 2024, we don't expect any news on the Surface Studio front. Instead, we expect to see the company unveil a new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop on stage. The Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 will have versions powered by a Snapdragon X Elite-based processor or an Intel Core Ultra processor.

With new Surface Studio news on the horizon and Apple's patent being far from a guarantee of future tech, it may be a while before we see a true or spiritual successor to the Surface Studio 2+.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

  • Sean Endicott
    I'd love to see more competition in this space. Hopefully Apple making a more modern studio device would push Microsoft to do the same.