News through the grape-vine is that the Apple Tablet may use a dynamically configurable Multi-touch Tactile Keyboard. This basically means that the screen may serve as a real keyboard by deploying physical bumps and dots to make the keyboard more finger-friendly. These bumps simply retract when the device is not in it’s keyboard mode.
Such keyboards work by using an articulating frame underneath the screen. The articulating frame may also be configured to cause concave depressions similar to mechanical key caps in the surface.
Apple has been known to patent an article with the same features back in 2007. This article clearly states:
The articulating frame may provide key edge ridges that define the boundaries of the key regions or may provide tactile feedback mechanisms within the key regions
A second design in the article lacks such a frame. It is more resistant to touch at the center of the keys but is softer at the edges.
It should be noted that pointing and typing are completely different and both of them require different surfaces. While pointing requires a smooth, frictionless surface, typing requires buttons whose edges have to be felt clearly by the fingers.
That, combined with Apple’s new patent this week, about a multi-touch controller that uses transparent touch sensors and does not require an opaque surface, points clearly to this dynamic tactile multi-touch screen.