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Apple Hints At Future Liquid-Cooled Laptops

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the cool-me-in-the-water dept.

Portables 200

Lumenary7204 writes "According to the Register, Apple recently received US Patent Application No. 20080291629 for a 'liquid-cooled portable computer.' The filing describes a system where a 'pump ... coupled to the heat pipe is configured to circulate the liquid coolant through the heat pipe.' All claims of obviousness aside (after all, PC enthusiasts have been using liquid and phase-change cooling for years), the existence of the patent application seems to indicate that laptop manufacturers are in agreement with physicists and engineers who say we are running up against the practical limits of air-cooling such compact pieces of equipment."

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This won't fly. (5, Informative)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986543)

Literally, it won't fly. Getting one on an plane would be impossible anywhere in north America.

Re:This won't fly. (4, Funny)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986563)

TSA has already announced that they are relaxing the no liquids rule.

Re:This won't fly. (4, Funny)

Atti K. (1169503) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986681)

"Sir, you are required to remove the cooling liquid from the computer, put it into this container, which we'll put into this sealed bag. After landing you are free to put it back."

Re:This won't fly. (5, Funny)

bazorg (911295) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986775)

Apple will build a user-accessible liquid coolant tank and will sell small bottles with coolant of different colours and scents. Even printer ink manufacturers will be jealous of the margins :)

Re:This won't fly. (4, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987353)

It`s sad, but I think this should probably be modded informative rather than funny.

Re:This won't fly. (3, Informative)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987495)

They've had it on Mac Pros for years.
What could possibly go wrong?
http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1464395&tstart=990 [apple.com]

It's another built-in-defect waiting to happen, along with the dodgy Nvidia GPUs in Macbook Pros, those heat-deaths of HDDs in Macbooks etc...

Re:This won't fly. (4, Insightful)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988071)

You hit the nail on the head. Everybody has, at one point or another, experienced liquid leaking from their water heater, or air conditioner, or car radiator. It creates a mess, an expensive repair, and a shorter operational lifespan versus an air-cooled device. ("My g5 liquid cooled computer...is leaking and dripped onto my power supply. I am looking at a little under a thousand dollars for repair...with less than 2 years of actual use.")

I'd much prefer choosing the air-cooled PC with no moving parts (except a fan), even if that means I only run at 3000 megahertz instead of 6000. All I do is surf the net or stream Heroes off nbc.com, and I'm happy to take a slightly slower "engine" inside my computer (just as my Honda Insight only has 67hp). I don't need a lot of power for my daily routine and neither do most people.

Re:This won't fly. (1)

berwiki (989827) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988481)

Given the lifespan of a laptop is less than 5 years typically... How many people do you know who have had Car Radiator leaks on their automobile less than 5 years after they purchased it brand new??

Where is the tag for FearMongering?

Re:This won't fly. (2, Funny)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988903)

(just as my Honda Insight only has 67hp)

Your Insight is water-cooled. Therefore, you should sell it [to me] and buy an air-cooled VW Beetle.

: )

Re:This won't fly. (0, Flamebait)

berwiki (989827) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988423)

Everything is a built-in-defect waiting to happen.
Your argument is null.

Lets stop doing *anything* new because there might be a small amount of issues with this new technology initially. pfft.

Re:This won't fly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25988613)

Lets stop doing *anything* new because there might be a small amount of issues with this new technology initially.

So then in your eyes an argument against any particular idea is an argument against all ideas?

Re:This won't fly. (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988997)

Here's the thing. It wasn't really an argument. It was a slightly-tongue-in-cheek post pointing out that over the last few years, Apple's hardware has had significant issues. In short, their engineering-fu, their quality control, and their balance of form vs engineering seem out of wack.

I've been a Mac user for about 2-3 years, and in that time I've seen:

* Macbook: known issues with discolouring to top casing - design defect
* cracking top cases on MBs acknowledged as design defect. Happened to me and they fixed it, but it's a sign of poor hardware QC
* millions of seagate drives in Macbooks dying horrible heat deaths, due to poor basic thermal design of the laptop - all documented and acknowledged as a design fault
* those 1st gen Macbooks that shipped with huge amounts of thermal gunk on their heatsinks, leading to overheating problems
* batches of faulty swelling batteries
* replacement program for Macbook and Macbook Pro PSUs - in the main due to the lack of a strain relief on the magsafe end - a design decision
* millions of MBPs shipped with faulty Nvidia GPUs due to Nvidia manufacturing defect
* the brand new MB's exhibiting heat-related GPU lockups and failures
* iPhones with cracking casings due to plastics used

I'm sure there's more, but my basic thesis is they used to make great hardware and software. They now make great *looking* hardware and great software, and have a high incidence of hardware failure down to either poor QA or bad design decisions, where form has taken precedence over function.
I still buy Apple hardware like the tart I am, but I also buy Applecare now.
I'm not a hardware engineer but even I think that the fact my 17" Macbook Pro (lovely as it is apart from the Nvidia ticking time bomb inside it) gets too hot to touch in places during normal use Isn't A Good Thing.
If the reason for adding liquid cooling is so they can make the things a fraction slimmer, I'd say I wouldn't trust them at present to get the balance right, and I'd prefer an extra mm of thickness versus yet another dodgy Rev A hardware release.

Re:This won't fly. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25987755)

Apple will build a user-accessible liquid coolant tank and will sell small bottles with coolant of different colours and scents.

Apple Juice?

Re:This won't fly. (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987923)

great. then we'll have to wait through some other "Apple" trademark dispute.

scents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25988291)

why can't the user supply their own liquid?

Re:This won't fly. (1)

ksatyr (1118789) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986569)

More to the point, if it does fly, when it hits the ground will the liquid make a mess as it leaks out?

Re:This won't fly. (5, Funny)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986637)

will the liquid make a mess as it leaks out?

Wrong question.

Will it blend?

Re:This won't fly. (1)

bigjarom (950328) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988927)

That is the question

Re:This won't fly. (5, Funny)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986839)

'Hit' the ground??? This is an Apple laptop; the reality distortion field will morph the pavement as it descends.

Re:This won't fly. (4, Funny)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987405)

No more mess than the liquid that will leak out of you if you hit the ground when flying.

Well (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987637)

it will be hard to determine if the coolant is leaking or the Sony battery, unless the later only occurs with added smoke.

I can see a good use for more power on the pro line but Apple still needs to get a laptop in the $500 to $600 range too introduce more people to X

Re:Well (4, Funny)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987933)

no, it's a safety device. the leaking liquid will extinguish the fire caused by the cracked battery. Brilliant!

Re:Well (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988993)

Hmm... water plus a lithium [youtube.com] battery -- I don't think that's going to turn out quite the way you hoped!

Re:This won't fly. (1)

PancakeMan (530649) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987559)

Literally, it won't fly. Getting one on an plane would be impossible anywhere in north America.

You're assuming the laptop won't fit in a Ziploc baggie...

Re:This won't fly. (1)

skeeto (1138903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988901)

Just tell TSA it is cooled by saline solution [tsa.gov] , which has no limitations. 'Cause, ... uh ... you keep your contact lenses inside your computer.

Oh my! (4, Funny)

millisa (151093) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986567)

"pump ... coupled to the heat pipe is configured to circulate the liquid coolant through the heat pipe."

Why does it seem like that should be followed by 'and shipped to your door in plain, discreet packaging'?

Re:Oh my! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25986595)

"pump ... coupled to the heat pipe is configured to circulate the liquid coolant through the heat pipe."

Why does it seem like that should be followed by 'and shipped to your door in plain, discreet packaging'?

Because you're 14 years old and horny?

Re:Oh my! (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986765)

You think you have problems getting your laptop through airport security now, wait until the iPipeBomb ships :)

Re:Oh my! (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987171)

Doesn't everything get "shipped to your door in plain, discreet packaging" these days? I've never bought a photographic lens and had it arrive in anything other than a plain brown cardboard box wrapped in the courier's shipping bag.

Seriously, is there some company out there that incurs extra costs by shipping its goods in packaging marked "VIBRATOR INSIDE"?

Liquid Nitrogen (3, Interesting)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986585)

While liquid cooling may be a better solution than air for laptops, there are studies that show that the energy used to pump the liquid and cool it is greater by a 10x magnitude relative to air systems.

The university of Chalmers in Sweden has been experimenting with liquid Nitrogen for some time now and their solution (while not cheap) is extremely effective for cooling of small electronic devices. Give it some time and I'm sure this will made it into mainstream (and Abble may very possibly claim that they invented the thing as well).

Re:Liquid Nitrogen (5, Insightful)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986633)

The university of Chalmers in Sweden has been experimenting with liquid Nitrogen for some time now and their solution (while not cheap) is extremely effective for cooling of small electronic devices. Give it some time and I'm sure this will made it into mainstream (and Abble may very possibly claim that they invented the thing as well).

I doubt it - that sounds like a miniture cryobomb to me. Depressurising liquid nitrogen (i.e. exposed to air) cools very, very fast, so if the device was ruptured it could cause some very nasty cold burns. This might be applicable in some limited circumstances, but the risk of costly litigation is too high for the general consumer market.

Re:Liquid Nitrogen (-1, Flamebait)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987265)

If terrorists attacked the plane we could act them with laptops converted into weapons that spray boiling nitrogen. Dude that is so cool, it'd look like the smoke spraying guns the Daleks had in Doctor Who.

Of course the terrorists would convert there laptops into freeze guns too, but they'd presumably be outnumbered, unless you were flying Saudi Air.

Re:Liquid Nitrogen (3, Interesting)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987061)

This is generally liquid gel cooling, where the liquid has high thermal conductivity. The pump needn't be all that powerful. There are pumpless systems that use liquid CFCs, but (a) they use CFCs (chemically harmless, but nassssty to dispose of given ozone concerns) (b) the CFCs cost a fortune. The main problem will be the requirement of perfect sealing.

Re:Liquid Nitrogen (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25987915)

"Abble may very possibly claim that they invented the thing as well"

WTF is an Abble?

That's even lamer than Micro$oft, you should be ashamed.

Liquid cooling (-1, Offtopic)

In hydraulis (1318473) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986657)

Like frosty piss?

Water? (1)

martinmarv (920771) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986673)

Surely it would be better to use ice? It's much colder.

Re:Water? (4, Funny)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986943)

Ah yes, liquid ice. Why has no-one thought of that before?

Re:Water? (2, Funny)

Alsee (515537) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987347)

I think you mean molten ice.

Jupiter's moon Europa also has a core of molten ice. I it even erupts occasionally from volcanos, as Europan lava.

Thousands of people die each year from molten ice inhalation.
Ask your congressman to ban molten ice!

-

Re:Water? (2, Funny)

jitterman (987991) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988655)

I think you mean molten ice.

No no no... Molson(tm) Ice. Should see your Apple do some interesting things once it starts to blow .08 or greater.

Foolish. (-1, Troll)

ReedYoung (1282222) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986687)

I have a better idea but Steve Jobs hasn't paid me for it yet.

Bad terminology (2, Informative)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986703)

They should double check their terminology. Heat pipes are defined to be a closed system whereby the working fluid circulates by convection and capillary action.

"Heat pipes contain no mechanical moving parts..."

Or just a bad understanding of Apple? (1)

Crash Culligan (227354) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987359)

nog_lorp: They should double check their terminology. Heat pipes are defined to be a closed system whereby the working fluid circulates by convection and capillary action.

And that's probably what they're going to do, too.

Remember, Mr. Jobs absolutely hates noisy computers. He wants them to run as quietly as possible. Fans are kept to an absolute minimum, tolerated only when absolutely necessary and verboten otherwise.

Substitute "pump" for "fan," and you can see where this is going. They'll want a system as noiseless as possible, so they'll want as few pumps as possible. A heat pipe (or whatever you choose to call a heat transfer system that uses no motors) would be the answer to their (pipe) dreams.

Whose definition? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25987563)

"Car" was once the shortened form of carriage, which was expected to be horse-drawn. Definitions describe common usage, they don't determine it.

Re:Bad terminology (1)

redxxx (1194349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987863)

Well, you could still pump the liquid back to the hot side, and use convection to pull it away. They are just replacing the capillary action with a pump.

So long as they still keep the whole thing under a partial vacuum and moving heat away from the hot side via convection. I'm OK with calling it some form of heat pipe.

It's not like they are using a compressor or anything, they are just helping out the circulation. Heck, plenty of heat pipes use gravity to get the liquid back, but that's not really going to work with a laptop.

Meh, yeah, it is not what I think of when I hear heat pipe. But it uses a lot of the same processes, and the math for heat transfer should work out to be about the same, with maybe a bit more capacity(and the new ability to suffer mechanical failures).

That or it is just non-novel nonsense. A standard phase change system or heat pipes hooked up to('coupled with') a pump powered liquid cooling system.

Re:Bad terminology (1)

redxxx (1194349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988497)

Actually having read the patent, it would seem to apply to any and all methods of cooling something portable using 1)a fluid, 2)a pump, and 3)tubes.

damned retarded patent. In some of the cases where they talk about heat pipe they are talking about the real thing, but then they go on to talk about phase change in wholly unrelated methodology. The whole thing is just insanely broad. I freaking hate patents these days.

Re:Bad terminology (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987999)

yes, this can involve a heat pipe. Read the claims. (please whack that !heatpipe tag). your laptop has a heatpipe now. it efficiently gets heat from the source (IC) to the removal fluid (air). Now, they want a liquid loop in there, and this could involve a heat pipe. You'd have to do the system balance to see if the extra distance-from-source gained by the heatpipe offsets the cost and thermal impediment it imposes. Maybe it does, maybe not. Maybe the liquid should go right to the chip, maybe it can be better coupled to the heat by spreading it through a heatpipe first.

And anyway, putting in a liquid heat-acquisition loop doesn't remove the need to dump the heat to air eventually. the hope would just be that the more efficient acquisition and the increased freedom in designing your rejection-to-air create a net thermal benefit. Battery life would likely take a hit in any case.

aren't we beyond the limits of air cooling? (5, Interesting)

Racemaniac (1099281) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986743)

my father has got one of those huge 19" laptops with a 3ghz+ pentium 4 processor and geforce 5xxx graphic chipset
unless we put something under it so there is some room between the laptop and the table, it completely overheats as soon as i stress it (a simple game that a pc like that hsould easily handle. Diablo 2 or so) -_-. even with some room under it, it only takes a few minutes for it to get seriously hot (you can actually feel from the outside of the laptop where the hot spots are)

i wonder what ever made them create such stupid laptops (and what made my father buy one -_-)

Re:aren't we beyond the limits of air cooling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25987647)

your's was of bad design. I had a alienware back in the P4 days that I overclocked to 3.0ghz. I finally got the ATI high end video upgrade to it and it got warm, but not hot. Granted it's thicker than most laptops but back when a P4 2.8ghz laptop cost you $3200 it had better be designed to handle the performance..

It still makes a really usable laptop. Just now customers look at it's weird Green and Yellow shell and ask why I have a bio hazard symbol on it's cover. One of those stupid purchases when I was young that embarrasses you when you are older... like a tattoo.

yes, I know... getting a Barenaked ladies tribal tattoo on my neck was stupid. amazing how crossing that 35 year make you realize that tattoos and other crap like that are incredibly stupid.

Re:aren't we beyond the limits of air cooling? (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987693)

i wonder what ever made them create such stupid laptops

That would be "consumers demanding faster and better, even if they don't need it, or buying it if the companies make it".

(and what made my father buy one -_-)

That would be the second part of the above - they made it, so he bought it.

Re:aren't we beyond the limits of air cooling? (1)

redxxx (1194349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987939)

(you can actually feel from the outside of the laptop where the hot spots are)

They are probably going have far fewer issues with hot spots, now that the case is a single carved chunk of aluminum.

Give their marketing people a few years to bring fins back into style, and their cases are going to be massive heat sinks.

Battery Usage? (5, Interesting)

Meviin (1360417) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986777)

I would be interested to see the energy difference between a laptop with a fan versus water cooling. I know that the specs haven't been released yet, but it seems like pumping water around would eat up the battery.
I have a HP laptop which runs fairly hot, but that's still better, as far as I'm concerned, than carrying around a heavy pump that uses up the battery.

Of course, if they manage to make it more compact and energy efficient than fans, all the power to them. I would still worry about it leaking and destroying my laptop, though.

Since Apple is trying for a patent for all types of mobile devices on this, it would be particularly interesting to see a water cooled iPhone...

Re:Battery Usage? (4, Funny)

Incadenza (560402) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986891)

Since Apple is trying for a patent for all types of mobile devices on this, it would be particularly interesting to see a water cooled iPhone...

Water cooled iPhones? I call prior art [google.com] !

Liquid metal means no moving parts (2, Interesting)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986939)

It could be they are considering pumps with no moving parts, like the one described here: http://danamics.com/technology/pump.aspx [danamics.com]

Re:Liquid metal means no moving parts (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987057)

The summary mentions a pump.

Re:Battery Usage? (1)

jamesdfrost (1364235) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986973)

I don't think that Water cooling will result in a laptop than feels cooler - the heat will still be generated, and will still need to go somewhere! It could result in heat being distributed more evenly, rather than building up in the processor area, or possibly reduce noise, but noise is not generally an issue for most laptops. All in all, it seems like a bit of a waste of time to me.

Re:Battery Usage? (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987065)

Efficient heat distribution is well worth it. My HP 6710b has the fan exhaust on the side - when the processor's running full-speed (e.g. when it's running Windows - this hardly ever happens when it's running Linux), the heat blowing out the side is actually hot enough to be painful.

Re:Battery Usage? (1)

sam0vi (985269) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987137)

I have a liquid-cooled laptop, and i can tell you that, for me, the noise reduction is quite important, since i have my laptop running almost 24/7 (torrents)in my bedroom. before that (when i used my desktop pc) i had to turn it off before going to bed (unless i got home really wasted). so i vote YES for the noise reduction, but i guess it's a matter of need.

Re:Battery Usage? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987047)

Also bear in mind that watercooling or other liquid cooling just allows you to have your radiator remote from the components, granting you better-designed airflow, a single cooler for multiple components, or simply a larger cooler than could be used otherwise (especially if "remote" means "outside the case"). It doesn't magically remove heat on its own. Given that most laptops already use heat-pipes to attain exactly that goal (my own cheapo HP cools most of its components off a single blower on the chassis edge), liquid cooling would only grant an improvement by degrees, not the game-changing design shift people seem to be expecting.

No, I didn't write this whole post for tha pun.

Re:Battery Usage? (1)

squoozer (730327) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987483)

While it is certianly true that pumping water requires more energy than blowing air you have to move a lot less water so I wouldn't be surprised if they could make the water cooling rig only two or three times more energy intensive than current air cooling.

I know from keeping fish that water pumps use very little power. Even my monster pump that shifts FSM knows how may litres of water an hour only uses about 50W. I also have a tiny pump that is still way larger than you would use for a laptop that draws

Re:Battery Usage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25987707)

That is a good point. Most warranties don't cover "water damage" I wonder how they would respond to "Liquid coolant" damage.

Re:Battery Usage? (1)

bdg4436 (1423857) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988551)

Fans would still be required to effectively exhaust heat from inside the chassis. Liquid cooling simply allows for a more efficient rate of heat exchange from the device(s) to the final heatsink/radiator. From there, the greater density of heat coupled with the same rate of airflow (from fans) will produce a higher dissipation rate to better cool the device on a whole. So the things to consider (in a majority of situations) for power efficiency of such as system would be the power usage of the liquid pump vs any potential decrease in fan voltage to weigh it against all air systems.

prior art? (4, Interesting)

MoFoQ (584566) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986785)

doesn't Hitachi's watercooled laptop [geek.com] from a few years ago count as "prior art"?

Re:prior art? (-1, Troll)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986983)

You never learn, do you? Abble INVENTED water.

Re:prior art? (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987033)

Abble

That's as pathetic as the idiots who use "M$".

Re:prior art? (1)

DanJ_UK (980165) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987111)

The machine runs a 1.8GHz mobile Pentium 4, and has a flexible tube which carries water over the chips in order to dissipate heat.

And then (here comes the best bit) the heated water is run into a visible tank on the back of the LCD in order to cool down.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2002/07/18/hitachi_creates_splash_with_water/ [theregister.co.uk] :-/

Also Compaq had that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25988739)

doesn't Hitachi's watercooled laptop [geek.com] from a few years ago count as "prior art"?

Also Several Pentium-2 era Compaq laptops had liquid cooling. It was wonderful, entirely quiet and worked well. Most of the time. I saw couple people having leaks, effectively destroying the laptop. :)

Airplanes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25986799)

Liquid cooled macbook air....

TSA's gonna throw a fit when someone has liquid and electronics in the same envelope...

Re:Airplanes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25988945)

Jeez! Where are your marketing skills! Is the new "Macbook Water"

ORLY? (1)

senorpoco (1396603) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986803)

what's the weight one of these bad boys? plus is coolant non conductive? I should think that the risk of rupture is far higher in a laptop system taking it's hits than a static PC.

A note on semantics (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986815)

One doesn't "receive" a patent application; one "makes" one. In the initial application, which is what this is, the claims can say literally anything the applicant wants; during the examination process the applicant can (and usually does) modify the claims to meet the objections of the examiner (who -- in theory, anyway -- is ensuring that anything claimed is supported by text in the original specification portion of the application, and that the resulting invention meets the statutory requirements for utility, novelty, non-obviousness, etc.). A typical tactic on the part of an inventor is to write the initial claims broadly, then narrow their coverage in response to the examiner's objections. Frequently the claims of the final patent bear little resemblance to the initial ones. At the end of the process, one hopes to be left with a description of the invention that still is broad enough to be commercially useful. (One way a patent can be commercially useful, of course, is if it covers a product one is developing for market; in that case, one tries hard to ensure that the claims cover that implementation of the invention.)

With that said, and having read just the initial claims and not the specification -- yet -- I have to agree that there's nothing in the claims that I haven't seen described in public before (setting aside the strange description of a heat pipe coupled to a pump). Since corporations typically do not file patent applications they do not think will result in issued patents -- it's a waste of money and time of people, including the inventor, who have better things to do -- and Apple, for sure, knows the art of PC design, one has to wonder if there is some nugget of novelty, a particular wrinkle or implementation, described in the specification somewhere that is the real reason for the application.

Or maybe they just screwed up. E.g., the PC hardware guys missed the Apple patent committee meeting at which this invention was presented, and the remaining software and UI members of the committee were swayed by a particularly persuasive inventor. (It's been known to happen.)

Re:A note on semantics (5, Interesting)

dtmos (447842) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986989)

After reading the specification, it sure sounds to me like a description of a prototype product on which Apple is trying to get patent protection. Some of the specifics in the specification are just too, well, specific -- for example, the description in [0034] of the use of a Venturi tube, or the parenthetical comment in [0035] about the use of ultrasonic frequencies in the membrane pump.

Possibly the biggest detail, though -- and the one bit of novelty I think I see in the specification that could form the basis of an allowable patent claim -- is the comment in [0041] that the heat may be coupled to the outside world by a plate behind the display. This is exactly the kind of novelty nugget -- assuming it really is novel -- to which I referred in my earlier comment. One way Apple could get an allowance on this application, after the initial rejection by the examiner, is to include this feature in an independent claim; the invention would then be a liquid-cooled laptop with the heat exchanger behind the display. (Of course, in that case your liquid-cooled laptop that doesn't have the heat exchanger behind the display wouldn't infringe on the resulting patent.)

As I said, assuming that it is a novel feature. PC design is not my specialty. Has anyone seen art before May 22, 2007 -- the filing date of this application -- describing a liquid-cooled laptop with the heat exchanger behind the display?

Re:A note on semantics (2, Informative)

MiKM (752717) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987197)

Possibly [geek.com] . The article doesn't mention where the heat exchange takes place, but one of the diagrams seems to suggest that it's behind the display. Maybe somebody who reads Japanese could translate.

Re:A note on semantics (2, Informative)

dave420 (699308) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987219)

Yup [geek.com] .

Re:A note on semantics (1)

Kozz (7764) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988331)

Sometimes I think that I'd like patents to be granted in the same way a DM grants wishes in an AD&D campaign. Word it carefully, specifically, and don't ask for too much... or you're likely to be the victim of the law of unintended consequences.

I don't think they necessarily "agree" (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986877)

ORLY patents serve only two purposes: One being that you have to pay through the nose if you want to do what is the obvious next step in development. And today it seems the logical next step in cooling for mobiles is liquid (as it has been for non mobile computers for, I don't know, a few decades?).

The other purpose is to simply leave your competition behind because they must not use what you patented.

So, of course, Apple is the good guy here, because they force the developers of laptops to come up with new, inspired ideas because they blocked the path of the most obvious one?

No, wait, ain't it usually MS blocking paths and Apple coming up with something fancy? I'm confused here...

Apple is a corporation. (4, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987355)

Apple is a corporation. Corporations are by law required to be psychopathic money-hungry bastards (that's what the SEC regulations for public companies amount to). Don't attribute human emotions and motivations to corporations... corporations reflect ANY human attributes only in spite of what they are.

Setting that aside, the third reason for a patent is to provide defensive ammunition against the OTHER psychopathic money-hungry bastards that might use THEIR patent against you.

Re:Apple is a corporation. (1)

mu22le (766735) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988143)

corporations reflect ANY human attributes only trough extensive marketing efforts

there, fixed that for you :)

Greed is human (1)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988321)

Greed is human. Greed can even be irrational, like humans.

Wrong Direction (4, Insightful)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 5 years ago | (#25986971)

With the rise of netbooks, I think the laptop market is moving more towards smaller and more efficient, rather than big and powerful. I'd much rather see an ultra-portable Apple laptop that needs _no_ cooling assistance and gets 12-18 hours on a basic battery (so I can leave the power brick at home!) than another high-wattage crotch burner in the marketplace.

Re:Wrong Direction (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987741)

Considering that they bought a company that designs low-power chips, I wouldn't be surprised if you see this. Apple tends to divide its product lines into the consumer and pro models, where the pro models are very low-volume, high-margin and the consumer models are much higher volume (I wouldn't be surprised if something like the MacBook sells more units than any other laptop - Dell or Asus may sell a few times more laptops, but it's divided among a lot of product lines). This is the kind of thing you'd find in one of their pro lines. For their consumer lines expect something more like an iPod touch - 1-2GHz dual-core ARM SoC designed by former PA Semi people, same UI as the Touch, but a slightly larger screen and a keyboard.

Re:Wrong Direction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25987821)

high-wattage crotch burner

what a coincidence, i think i dated her!

Re:Wrong Direction (2, Funny)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988021)

I dunno, I kinda like my Laptop/Easy Bake Oven. I suspect I could market the oven portion to college students and make a killing.

Re:Wrong Direction (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988101)

You could argue that the netbooks are the best users for something like this; the heat dissipation options with air are much more limiting in compact designs than larger machines. I know the venting on my AA1 is ugly when compared to the macs, and the noise level is pretty significant. Something with a very small membrane pump could do wonders.

Only problem is that a pump failure will immediately toast the system, and you have to spend real money to keep the piping connections from leaking.

What about weight? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25986975)

Presumably the weight of the liquid is greater than the weight of the fans - by how much I don't know

Too late (1)

sam0vi (985269) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987095)

I already own a liquid-cooled laptop. i bought it last year. it's an LG (can't remember the exact model right now). so unless they do some creative wording in the patent filing, i think they are quite busted. Sorry...

Didn't end well last time (1, Insightful)

countach (534280) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987477)

This didn't end well last time with most of the G5 Power Macs ending up leaking their coolant and destroying their insides.

Ah, but what type of liquid...? (1)

mingle (1121231) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987533)

Surely it'll be the environmentally friendly and oh-so trendy Evian...

green? (2, Interesting)

jDeepbeep (913892) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987537)

How would this fit in with Apple's recent fascination to produce "green" notebooks? What is the environmental impact? Would disposing of them present any issues?

The only reason laptops get so hot... (0)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987627)

... is becuase they need powerful CPUs to run the eye candy and bloatware that gets shoved onto them. Yes that means you too apple, KDE, Gnome, not just MS Vista. If developers wrote more efficient code instead of trying to shoehorn in every more useless features for the Oooo Shiny! crowd laptops could stick with more modest CPUs and this wouldn't be an issue.

However , as we've seen many are sticking with XP now for this very reason (although XP is hardly a paragon of cpu cycle abstinance but its better than Vista in this respect) so perhaps OSS and closed source devs might wake up and smell the overheating.

Re:The only reason laptops get so hot... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987837)

My MacBook Pro doesn't get hot from just running Quartz. The CPU load is around 10% with a dozen applications open and doing small amounts of background processing. The GPU load is at a similar or lower level, and the fans aren't running. The laptop needs cooling only when I do something like run a 3D app that taxes the GPU or when I run a big compile job that taxes both cores of the CPU. You could eliminate the need for cooling by underclocking the CPU, but that's not ideal...

Just in time to be outclassed... (0, Troll)

donkeyqong (939403) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987635)

...by a $399 Dell. When has Apple released a computer that performs better better than the competition? Sure there are quite a few people that like the OS for one reason or another, rave about the ipod, or stand by their iphone. But really, when has there been an Apple that hasn't been outclassed in RAM, Processor power, or storage options by a half price competitor. GOod thing they have great designers working there.

The solution I used (1)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987759)

I got tired of my Alienware laptop being so loud/sucking so much juice when I was playing High School Musical: Day of the Dance that I came up with my own solution. I disabled all of the fans then cut a small hole about the size of a nickel in the side of my laptop. I then inserted a kazoo and krazy glued it in there. Now when my laptop gets hot (or I want a nice kazoo solo in my game) I just blow on it.

Patenting for patents sake... (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987905)

"...the existence of the patent application seems to indicate that laptop manufacturers are in agreement with physicists and engineers who say we are running up against the practical limits of air-cooling such compact pieces of equipment"

Bullshit. The existence of patent application is the 21st Century corporate CYA move. Doesn't mean it's actually worth a damn. C'mon, water-cooled laptops?

I've lost count on how many discussions posted in the last 10 days on Slashdot covering something related to patent application/infringement/reform/lawsuit. It's absolutely obscene what has happened to USPTO, but unfortunately the activity is in direct correlation to the obscenities that find their way into a courtroom every single day that somehow repeatedly escape the M.O.T.O. and Common F. Sense filters.

Of course! The liquid cooled Mac Pro G5's worked! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25987925)

Oh wait, I was thinking of something else.

http://files.macbidouille.com/news/200708/040.jpg

Motts Apple Juice Boxes (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 5 years ago | (#25987981)

Just plug the straw into the Juice Port and let the cooling begin!

Say goodbye to taking it on an airplane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25988185)

TSA will not allow you on a plane with liquid in your laptop since it could be a bomb. At least that is their view on it. LOL

Innovation at its best! (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988323)

How is this anything but:

[$PRIOR_ART], but in a laptop.

Making prior art smaller should not warrent a patent. The current patent system is completely ridiculous. You know, Starbucks has a venti Mocha. I ought to patent the trenta mocha. I mean, I'm innovating a new coffee, right? And, just to be a little wacky, it'll be 34 ounces instead of the 30 it is named for. Now that's thinking different!

Can't believe no one has said it... (0, Offtopic)

CmdrPorno (115048) | more than 5 years ago | (#25988533)

I, for one, welcome our new liquid-cooled overlords.

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