For years, we've seen Apple patent applications for touch-sensitive keyboards. Those patents have been based on the pioneering work of FingerWorks, a company which was acquired by Apple in 2005 and served as the basis for much of Apple's multi-touch technology. Prior to the acquisition, FingerWorks had produced several touch-sensitive multi-touch keyboards that garnered positive reviews, although they never became mainstream products. The one major hurdle in the adoption of these touch-only keyboards has been the lack of tactile feedback as compared to traditional keyboards.
A new Apple patent application that we've uncovered seems, however, to try to address that issue by creating a hybrid physical keyboard that will also double as a motion-sensitive input device. The patent application is authored by John Elias, one of the co-founders of FingerWorks.
First, Apple acknowledges that the physical keyboard remains the preferred input device: