Apple gets a patent on smart screen bezels

Apple might have finally released the iPad, but the rumor mill is already on to prognosticating about the next rev -- and as usual, Apple's patents and patent applications are everyone's favorite place to start. (And for good reason, really -- that very first design patent we inititally noticed way back in 2004 is exactly what the iPad looks like, down to the bezel and Dock connector.) The latest tidbit is a patent granted earlier this week on an intelligent touch-sensitive bezel, which would essentially extend the touchpanel beyoned the edges of the screen to create an entire border of context-specific soft buttons -- the iPod app might have playback controls at the bottom, while Safari could put the navigation bar down there and Pages could do formatting stuff at the top. It's sort of interesting -- Palm similarly extends the touch area beyond the screen on the Pre and the Pixi, but not quite like this -- but we can't see how touching the bezel next to an on-screen label is much better than just pressing the screen. Of course, there's no guaranteeing Apple's actually going to use any of this in any future products whatsoever, but we're sure that won't stop some analyst from waving their magic analyst wand and saying their "supply checks" have indicated a major ODM is already producing these. It's nice that the world is so predictable sometimes, isn't it?