In the war to make computing devices as small as possible there will inevitably be casualties, but a patent filed by Google yesterday suggested an altogether unexpected victim may be on its way out: the spacebar.
Hawk-eyed journalist Mike Murphy at Quartz reported this week on a recently-filed Google patent proposing a laptop that integrates the spacebar with the trackpad.
The design specifies that the trackbar (or should that be spacepad?) would occupy the position on the keyboard formerly occupied by the spacebar.
Whether a tap from the user adds a space or clicks the trackpad would be dependent on the context of the action. For instance, tapping during the process of typing would add a space.
The tech giant hopes that merging these two features will allow for the assembly of even smaller laptops, most likely in its Chromebook series.
Google isn't alone in its pursuit of the petite yet powerful. The latest 12in MacBook is Apple's smallest laptop yet, shaving off centimetres in almost every dimension.
It's important, of course, to remember that patents aren't a surefire method of gauging a company's future plans; many are successfully filed and then never acted upon. Google responded to Quartz that "prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents."
We're somewhat ambivalent about the idea of a virtual spacebar - our thumbs aren't as suited to the delicate tapping of a virtual key as the rest of our digits. Regardless, we would interested to see any attempt to banish the button that Google sends our way.