Kickstarter Project Turns The iPad Into Apple's First Touchscreen Laptop

With $400,000 raised already, yet another product creates a company overnight.

For a product with no GI tract to speak of, the iPad sure comes with a lot of buts. “I love it for surfing on the couch, but…” or “I love it for writing my emails, but…” These aren’t even necessarily flaws with the iPad itself, but a difference in the scope Apple imagines for the product and the user imagines for a product.

Some people don’t just want to draw, they want to paint. And some people don’t just want to watch movies, they want to listen to them, too.

The Brydge is yet another runaway Kickstarter project that scratches one of those iPad consumer itches--namely, those who want to type on an iPad with all the elegance they do on their laptops.

It’s a clip-on iPad keyboard with a milled aluminum chassis and integrated speaker that ostensibly converts the iPad into a MacBook. Other products like this exist, but Brydge is a bit more minimal than the others, and doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to make the iPad look exactly like a Macbook Air:

“We love the Apple products’ aesthetics, but when it comes to the iPad it felt like every keyboard or case is made from cheap materials, didn’t offer any range of iPad positioning or completely covered the entire iPad. Brydge was designed to complement the iPad, to improve productivity and enjoyment of the device,” explains Sam Gordon, one of Brydge’s three creators. “Because it’s made of aluminum, the costs to manufacture Brydge are high--we turned to Kickstarter to raise the necessary capital to do manufacturing run. We also wanted to test the market and see if there was room for a high-quality aluminum keyboard.”

Apprently there is some room in the market for that premium keyboard. In a week, Brydge raised over $400,000, promising units at an introductory price of $150 (about the same cost as a refurbished Kindle Fire).

You could call it beginner’s luck for a project pioneered by just three Menlo Park designers (Sam Gordon, Brad Leong, Eddy Vromen) who don’t even have a collective studio behind them. But the thing is, the Brydge is the group’s second successful Kickstarter product. Previous to it, Gordon and Leong raised over $130,000 for an iPhone stand called the Oona. Corporate or not, there’s a strange and wonderful alchemy going on between these designers.

“We all have eclectic backgrounds. Brad grew up designing gadgets and gizmos, self-taught in design and film work. He attended the USC Film school and has directed several features, but now he is focused on product design. Eddy is from the Netherlands originally, he has worked on everything from an electronic cigarette to a 3-D printer,” Gordon tells Co.Design. “Brad and I have talked about different products to make since college, I went off to work in politics and then in New York for several years, and just came back last year to work full-time with Brad. I handle a lot of the day-to-day operations and relationships with distributors, retailers, manufacturers, etc.”

Eclectic backgrounds aside, they’re clearly striking a chord with the Kickstarter community. And I was curious, with all this success, Kickstarter must be giving them the white glove treatment, but Gordon insists that isn’t the case, and offers some insight into this explosion of crowdfunding: “Kickstarter is very serious about knowing that any product they allow can and will be produced,” he writes. “They asked a lot of questions about our experience and our timeline. Nothing too difficult if you know what you’re doing…[but] they made sure we knew what we were doing before letting us on the site.”

Gordon attributes the Brydge’s success with the design collective’s ability to package the product (sometimes at Apple’s expense), to express what made it stand out from other keyboards in the space. “There are a lot of keyboards that are painted silver and look decent on a computer,” he writes, “but what really sets our keyboard apart is when you hold it in your hand and it feels like it belongs next to an Apple product.”


The Brydge crew isn’t the first to attempt to duplicate Apple’s legendary build quality, and without seeing the device and grasping it for ourselves, it’s tough to know if they truly have. But one thing’s somewhat certain: With $400,000 in the bank hinged on an enticing promise, at this juncture, that stipulation really doesn’t matter so much.

Buy it here.

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25 Comments

  • Stu

    If you want the functionality of a laptop, buy a laptop.

    If you want the ultimate in portability, buy a smartphone.

    If you want something less functional that a laptop, but slightly more portable, while being slightly more functional than a smartphone, but less portable, buy a tablet.

    Most confusing product ever.

  • Phunken

    Agreed.
    Bridge is redundant idea. Tablet is made to look like a tablet why on earth anyone want to make to look like a laptop that the ipad design to get away from... I love my spork but there's a reason why people separate their fork and spoon.
    I sold the iPad after 3 months of ownership to get a Macbook Pro for maximum functionality and use the iPhone for portable use.

  • jacob_Somers

    Tablets are out to replace laptops, and now laptops are out to replace tablets. Flameo, sir. Fame-e-o.

  • Matthew Martz

    I hate to break this to you, but Android did this already. The Asus Transformer has been marketed with a keyboard add on since last year, and it is designed to go with it so it looks 100% natural. So... yay for Apple users who will be able to do something I have been doing for awhile.

  • Deejay Austin

    I tried *imagining* (since I obviously don't have the Brydge) using such a keyboard with my iPad for real tasks.  Because of the strong instinct to use the touchscreen, I found myself in mental and physical battle, moving my hands back and forth from the keyboard to the screen - much the same way I do on my PC with the keyboard and mouse.  How does that help ?

  • Steven Leighton

    "... fixing the Western healthcare system..."  er .... can't help but think you mean "fixing the US healthcarenot system" .. the rest of the western world has some mix of national and private insurance mix and is doing OK generally..so far ...

    This is a bit below par for you Mark.

  • Paul Smith

    Until the iPad supports the Magic Trackpad, this offers little benefit beyond what is available today with a bluetooth keyboard. The fact remains... touch screen is not conducive to working with documents or presos. Copy and paste is cumbersome and often frustrating. This is unfortunate given that Pages and Keynote are available for the iPad.

    Apple is so close, but until they have support for a trackpad and ideally, a second display with a higher resolution, we cannot realistically say that we're anywhere close to the post-PC era.

  • DOmega

    iOS doesn't have a permissive enough software policy to allow for this to have any worthwhile uses.   To offer applications worth using with an iPad in laptop mode, Apple would have to relax their ruthless vendor lockdown obsession.

    I think this - like many existing Apple offerings will only ever be an overpriced novelty.  The best it can offer with such a constrained ecosystem is accelerating very menial text input.  It would never serve as a basis to give way to a healthy platform.

    Last but not least, this would be another party Apple arrives late to - to much fanfare as ASUS has already beaten them to the punch.

  • brem

    Interesting how turning an iPad into a laptop is a "breakthrough" innovation in a world where the iPad-zealots insist that non-iPad tablets are dead and that non-tablet form factors are dead.

  • Beau Hall

    Oh - also - I think a lot of people are missing the key point here. It's not just another laptop. Apple will not be making touch-screen monitors or laptops - at least that's what they're saying at the stores.

    That's critical. Apple are shooting themselves in the foot by not making touchscreen monitors and/or laptops. That's why they are failing so horribly in the market place. Oh wait no they're not.

  • Matthew Martz

     I'm going to have to agree here. They need to partner with Wacom and come out with a touch screen laptop. People are already used to spending an arm and a leg on an Apple, so the extra cost would still be ok, and then designers would be able to have a mobile drawing system instead of having to lug around their Intuos.

  • Beau Hall

    I love this idea. I can't wait for somebody to build a component that allows flash on the iPad. THEN it will be perfect.

  • Joyce

    I absolutely agree,
    I try to open something and then have to fire up my laptop to view it...whatever it is.

  • Larissa Green

    This is utterly ridiculous to me. Someone raised $400,000 to market a product that didn't need to be made, since there are already things that Apple makes, simulating this exact thing--A LAPTOP MACBOOK. Please, for God's sakes and in the name of the ridiculousness of capitalism, stop using Kickstarter and wealthy people's ignorance (or lack of exposure to other iPad stands and gadgets just like this) for your own personal gain. It is beyond me. If we could give half as much money towards fixing the Western healthcare system, and its dependency on/peer-pressure from pharmaceutical companies, maybe everyone could create cures to cancer instead of PRODUCTS WE ALREADY HAVE in abundance.

    I say no, to this "innovation," and anyone who has an iPhone, and an iPad, and a Macbook should say the same as well. If not, you're one hell of a greedy, wealthy, confused human being.

  • Arthur Carter

    I get that it would be easier to type on an iPad if you have physical keypad connected wirelessly. But attaching an external keyboard is not the best solution. Apple has made it abundantly clear that the iPad is NOT intended to be a substitute for a laptop computer. This keyboard like watching someone swim upstream against a fast moving current running in the opposite direction. 
    There is another very creative Kickstarter project designed to make it possible to physically type on the iPad WITHOUT adding a $150 external keyboard. See "Touchfire" at: http://www.kickstarter.com/pro...

  • Jose

    The spiffy Asus Transformer Prime and the slightly less spiffy, but more affordable, $380 Transformer Pad TF300 also come with a clip-on keyboard. You don't have to wait for anyone to design it. It already exists.
    Just saying.