Apple set to release new ‘chameleon’ Macs, iPods that dynamically change color?

Way back in December 2002, we reported that Apple had applied for a new United States Patent, number 20020190975, for a “computing device with dynamic ornamental appearance.”

From Apple’s filing: “The invention pertains to electronic devices capable of dynamically changing their ornamental or decorative appearance, i.e., the outer appearance as seen by a user. The electronic devices generally include an illuminable housing. The illuminable housing, which includes at least one wall configured for the passage of light, is configured to enclose, cover and protect a light arrangement as well as functional components of the electronic device. The light arrangement, which generally includes one or more light sources, is configured to produce light for transmission through the light passing wall(s) of the illuminable housing. The transmitted light illuminates the wall(s) thus giving the wall a new appearance. That is, the transmitted light effectively alters the ornamental or decorative appearance of the electronic device. In most cases, the light is controlled so as to produce a light effect having specific characteristics or attributes. As such, the electronic device may be configured to provide additional feedback to the user of the electronic device and to give users the ability to personalize or change the look of their electronic device on an on-going basis. That is, a housing of the electronic device is active rather than passive, i.e., the housing has the ability to adapt and change. For example, the light may be used to exhibit a housing behavior that reflects the desires or moods of the user, that reflects inputs or outputs for the electronic device, or that reacts to tasks or events associated with operation of the electronic device.”

Patent application here.

In August 2004, The Register’s Tony Smith reported that Apple been granted the patent for the concept of the chameleonic device – a machine whose shell changes color at the user’s and/or the computer software’s whim.

There could be many uses for such a technology concept. iTunes-controlled or other application-controlled color changes to the cases of iPod, iMac, and iBook lines spring immediately to mind. iPods, due to space limitations, might not be feasible, but imagine an iPod that pulses along with the music a la iTunes’ Visualizer? Imagine your Mac’s case turning green when you have new email, or blue when your iChat buddies are online, or red when new headlines appear in your RSS reader. Or the Mac’s user accounts could trigger color changes that indicate which user is active. Or maybe you just want it to match your room’s decor. Such a “Chameleon Mac” could prove useful. Granted, this is very much a shot in the dark, but Apple does have the patent in hand and “one more thing” to announce soon.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Apple to release new computers and devices that dynamically change color? – December 28, 2002
Apple’s patented chameleon computer case could have many uses – August 16, 2004

iPods to get smaller outside, larger inside, white and black; new Macs also expected Wednesday – October 10, 2005
Anticipation excruciating as the perfect Apple storm looms – October 09, 2005
Report: Apple to debut pink iPod nano Madonna Special Edition model – October 08, 2005
JupiterResearch’s Gartenberg: Apple video iPod is unlikely, but possible – October 07, 2005
Did Steve Jobs already drop subtle hint about upcoming Apple product announcement? – October 06, 2005
BusinessWeek’s Burrows: What’s behind Apple’s red curtain? I’m looking for Macs – October 06, 2005
Report: New iPods sans video, Power Macs, and PowerBooks to debut at Apple’s October 12th event – October 05, 2005
Do the red curtains in Apple’s special event invitation carry hidden meaning? – October 05, 2005
BofA: Apple announcement’s highest probability is video iPod, maybe a new phone or enhanced Mac mini – October 05, 2005
Analysts expect video iPod from Apple, discuss price points – October 05, 2005
BBC 6 Music reports Apple video iPod to be unveiled in London next week – October 05, 2005
Report: Apple’s ‘One More Thing’ special event to feature PowerBook and Power Mac, not video iPod – October 05, 2005
Leaked Apple ‘iPod video’ spy photos? – October 05, 2005
Analysts: Apple all but certain to introduce video iPod – October 05, 2005
Report: Apple to launch video iPod next week – October 04, 2005
Apple invites media to ‘One More Thing’ special event on October 12 – October 04, 2005
Jefferies & Co. analyst: checks indicate Apple started video iPod production last month – October 04, 2005
UBS: Mac momentum continues building, Apple could sell 10 million iPods in holiday quarter – October 03, 2005
RUMOR: Apple to deliver new iPod, Power Mac, PowerBook models this month – October 03, 2005
Apple adds video to iPod trademark – August 03, 2005
Video iPod? Does The Wall Street Journal have a ‘Deep Throat’ inside Apple Computer? – July 25, 2005
Disney CEO Iger meets with Apple, Pixar CEO Steve Jobs to discuss distribution deal, video iPod – July 22, 2005
NY Post: signs point to Apple’s iTunes+iPod video plans – July 19, 2005
Report: Disney considers teaming with Apple to deliver iPod video content – July 19, 2005
More info about Apple’s reported iPod+iTunes video talks – July 18, 2005
WSJ: Apple in video iTunes talks, may unveil video iPod by September – July 18, 2005
Cringely: Apple working on HD movie download service and Video iPod – July 15, 2005
Report: Apple Computer to launch ‘Video iPod’ by 2006 – April 11, 2005


  1. Please, stop the scavaging of some people’s thoughts and turning it nto “news”. Thisis low, even for MDN…

    this idea was brought up in one of the other comment areas, and now it is “news”

    Stop already!!!

  2. I don’t begrudge MDN for bringing this up. I’ve often wondered what Apple would do with this patent and when, if…

    At least it’s not the same old video iPod, updated Mac speculation! And, if Apple did do something like this, it would grab headlines and actually be more than a gimmick – it could be used to convey real information or provide entertainment value.

    I still want a touch-screen “remote” for my Airport Express.

  3. Yeah this is BS. A reminder about that patent filing is a decent article I supposed but when you title it “Apple set to release new ‘chameleon’ Macs, iPods that dynamically change color?” that really misrepresents the store, even if it has a question mark behind it…

    Apple is not ‘set’ to deliver any such thing, at least not based on the complete lack of evidence of such product other than the patent filing.

    Saying that someone is ‘set’ means that they ARE getting ready to deliver it.

    Perhaps a better title would be “Do past Apple patents hold clues to Wednesday’s announcements?”

  4. G Spank:

    I enjoy the humor and rumor as much as anyone on MDN, but when another reader posits an idea or speculation in one of the MDN forums and MDN turns around and turns it into “news” and purports it as industry rumor, I find it misleading and akin to stealing. And no, it wasn’t my idea (however cool the concept might be…), but I felt some respect to originator of the idea was in order and just as low a form of journalism as MDN ascribes to other ejournalists, such as Enderle and others…

    You don’t have to like my comments, but don’t berate me for making them. Feel free to skip over any of my future posts if you find them uninteresting or offensive in some way…


  5. SirROM,

    Check out MDN’s related articles. They’ve been speculating about this for far longer than a reader in another post today.

    It’s interesting. Not remotely likely, but interesting and I’m glad MDN posted the article.

    Apple does have the patent – what would they use it for? And why not use it?

  6. I think it’s a matter of lightening up. Just as you say I should skip over your remarks if I don’t agree with them, can’t you skip over an article if you don’t think it’s relevant?

    Isn’t the purpose of this site to publish articles based on either “news” or “speculation”. This is specualtion, & it’s interesting specualtion. SImple as that. Thank you MDN, for reminding me of that patent (I had forgot about it) and if you happened to get the idea from a readers remarks, I’m sure they are pleased as pie about that (I would be).

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.