Back before the iPhone was formally announced, there was talk that Steve Jobs was simply not happy with the product because Apple's engineers couldn't figure out how to eliminate all of the physical buttons. There was just no practical way to put the functions of a power switch or home button into a touch-only interface. But all of that hasn't stopped Apple from trying.
A recently-filed patent by Apple clearly shows that the company means business when it comes to sleek, clutter-free interfaces. This particular patent aims to take advantage of multiple sides of a device (in this case, it appears to be the iPad, as pictured), including parts of the casing, in order to perform functions that physical buttons currently handle.
Talk of an interactive case has come up before, but with this new patent, it's clear the minds at Apple are still churning about in search for that holy grail of button-free, ultra-portable devices. I'm just not so sure there will be a way to get rid of them entirely -- who wants to have to resort to a paperclip to reset their device?