Apple's next big innovation: The iMac Touch?

The popularity of Apple iOS on the iPad and smaller devices and the stalwart OS X on iMacs and MacBooks might lead to a combination of the two. New patents provide some intriguing clues as to what might be Apple's next big idea.

The blog Patently Apple, which tries to stay ahead of everyone else in figuring out what Apple is up to next, claims to have verified patents, first filed in Europe, that illustrate how Apple will transition from OS X to iOS -- on the same machine:

Imagine having an iMac on your desktop one minute and a gigantic iPad the next. Imagine playing iGames on this dream machine - Wow! Imagine reading a double-page book on this - Unbelievable! Apple takes the mystery out of how OS X could finally co-exist with iOS on a Mac and you've got to see this one to believe it.

Clearly, they are pretty excited about it, and ZDNet's Jason O'Grady has this to say:

iOS was designed for smaller devices like the iPhone, iPod and iPad where the emphasis is on battery life. Mac OS X was designed for larger devices, with different input methods (keyboards, mice and trackpads) and an emphasis on the speed and capacity of processor, disk and memory. Two divergent goals.

It would seem that the patents that have just come to light could be Apple's answer to that divergence -- just bring the OSs together. Check out the illustration below and see what you think of this possibility. Here is a link to the actual patent.

Click image for larger view.

See the related gallery, which includes all the drawings and excerpts from the patent application.