You knew it was bound to happen. With the MacBook Air doing so well, Apple is planning thinner versions of its MacBook Pro line, as evidenced by a new patent (number 20110258649) at the US Patent & Trademark Office. And another new patent hints at an Apple laptop with a camera and illuminable latch.

The embodiments in the patent describe an apparatus and method for a reduced Z stack slot loading optical disc drive (ODD). In one embodiment a reduced Z stack height slot loading optical disc drive (ODD) is described. This may be a bit of a surprise as I expected the next major rev of the MacBook Pro to forego an optical drive entirely — with folks who need/want one steered to Apple’s external US$79 SuperDrive.

Per the new patent, the reduced Z stack height ODD includes at least a hub/turntable arrangement having a hub portion and a turntable portion, the turntable portion arranged to support an optical disc secured thereto by way of the hub such that when a rotational motive force is applied to the hub/combination, the optical disc rotates about a hub/turntable axis of rotation, and a rotational motor adjacent to the hub/turntable arrangement, the rotational motor being arranged to provide the rotational motive force to the hub/turntable arrangement, the rotational motor being located in such a way that a rotational motor axis of rotation is translated in a direction perpendicular to the hub/turntable axis of rotation and wherein a Z height of the hub/turntable arrangement and a Z height of the rotational motor are not cumulative. Paul Wehrenberg is the inventor.

Here’s Apple’s background on the invention: “In many cases it is necessary to mount objects onto a turntable. For example, many electronic devices contain an optical disc drive (ODD) for the purpose of reading and writing optical discs. Especially in the design of portable computers and electronic devices, there is a high value placed on reduction of size and weight. In current practice the slot loading ODD contains a coaxial hub/turntable/rotation motor combination that moves substantially along the axis of rotation, the ā€˜zā€™ direction, during the process of chucking the optical disc on the hub and turntable.

“Initially the hub/turntable/rotation motor combination must be moved substantially along the z direction so as to not interfere with movement of the optical disc in the plane of insertion, which plane of insertion is perpendicular to the z direction. When the optical disc is inserted, the hub/turntable/rotation motor combination is driven substantially along z in the other direction, so that the chucking hub is forced into the center hole of the optical disc, and thereby the optical disc is secured to the hub/turntable/rotation motor combination.

“Unfortunately, however, this motion in the z direction increases the overall height, also referred to as the Z stack height, of the ODD. This increase in Z stack height can limit any reduction in size or weight of the portable computer. Therefore, what is desired is a reduced Z stack optical disc drive.”

Meanwhile, patent number 20110255289 for an illuminable latch is for a computing device that includes a data capture device such as a camera. In one aspect, the data capture device may integrated with the housing of the computing device and further detachable therefrom. In another aspect, the data capture device may swivel and/or translate relative to the housing of the computing device. In another aspect, the computing device may include a positioning device for controlling the movement of the data capture device relative to the housing.

In yet another aspect, the computing device may include a latch that is automatically positioned in a home position when a housing component of the computing device is positioned in first position, and is automatically positioned in a lock position when the housing component of the computing device is positioned in a closed position. Christoph H. Krah is the inventor.

Here’s Apple’s background of the invention: “Laptop computers generally consist of a lid for housing a display screen such as an LCD and a base for housing various operational components such as a processor, a hard drive, a disk drive, a modem, a battery, etc. The base also typically carries several input devices including a keyboard, a track pad (or track stick), and various buttons. In most cases, the lid is hinged to the base so as to move the lid between a closed position, placing the lid against the base, and an open position, exposing the display screen and the input devices to the user.

“Most portable computers require that the lid be securely attached to the base for transportation. As such, a locking mechanism is generally provided to secure the lid to the base when the lid is in the closed position. The locking mechanism typically includes a hook, which extends from the lid and which is configured for lockably engaging the base when the lid is in the closed position. The locking mechanism may also include a slide knob for slidably releasing the hook from the base so as to place the lid in the open position.

“Various peripheral input output devices may be electrically connected to the laptop computer. The peripheral I/O devices may include memory, disk drives, keyboards, monitors, mice, printers, scanners, speakers and digital cameras. In most cases, the peripheral I/O devices are connected to laptop computer through wired connections using a serial, USB, or Firewire interface. In other cases, the peripheral I/O devices (as for example keyboards and mice) are connected to the laptop through wireless connections such as radio or Bluetooth.

“Digital cameras, in particular, have become increasingly popular input devices. The digital camera records images in digital form and feeds the images to the laptop computer. The images may be downloaded into the laptop computer as they are recorded or they may be stored in the digital camera for downloading at a later time. Once in the computer, the images can be edited, copied, emailed, broadcasted, etc.

“Some examples of digital cameras include webcams, point and click cameras and camcorders. In all of these examples, the digital camera includes a sensor that converts light into electrical charges. The image sensor employed by most digital cameras is a charge coupled device (CCD), although complimentary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) may also be used.

“Digital cameras and more particularly webcams, whose output is primarily available for viewing over the Internet, may also be configured for video conferencing. Video conferencing generally refers to a live connection between two or more participants in separate locations for the purpose of audio and video communication. At its simplest, videoconferencing provides transmission of images and text between two locations. At its most sophisticated, it provides transmission of full motion video images and high quality audio between two or more locations.

“Although current laptop designs work well, in many instances it would be desirable to provide laptops with improved and/or additional functionality while maintaining aesthetics and keeping with the current trend of smaller and more powerful laptops.”

— Dennis Sellers