Looks like Apple is working to extend an advanced version of its multi-touch technology to future notebook trackpads that would include gesture concepts well beyond what is presently available on its handheld and MacBook Air products.
The January 2007 filing, dug up overnight by MacRumors, is titled "Gesturing with a multipoint sensing device" and lists among its inventors Wayne Westerman of Fingerworks, a company absorbed by Apple several years ago as part of its quest to deliver iPhone and a new generation of input devices.
Of particular interest are several drawings and descriptions of a new Mac OS X "Gesture Control Panel" nestled deep within the 72-page filing. The panel is split three-way, offering a distinct set of customizable options for "Standard," "Basic," and "Advanced" multi-touch operations.
Listed as part of the "Advanced" panel are several pre-defined multi-touch gesture sets for operations not yet supported by Apple's iPhone, iPod touch, or MacBook Air offerings. Among them are gestures for file operations, editing operations, and Web browser operations.
For example, Apple explains that by using a combination of the thumb and two other fingers, users of the advanced multi-touch trackpad technology would be able to invoke commands for copy, paste, cut, redo, and select all. Similarly, by using the thumb and just one other finger, users would be able to create new files or open, save and close existing ones.
It's presently unclear when Apple will be ready to deploy its software for "Advanced" gestures, but those Mac systems supporting the Basic gestures include a Broadcom multi-touch chip. The presence of that chip should allow owners to take full advantage of the Advanced gestures through a software upgrade. Current MacBook and MacBook Pro owners, however, are unlikely gain access to the technology due to the lack of supporting hardware.
Update: : Appleinsider has published another fascinating look at yet another Apple patent which aims at evolving multi-touch technology into a surface extension which may replace keyboards all together, or could be used at replacing traditional input devices such as the keyboard, mouse, and drawing tablet.