Don’t think the new MacBook Air can possibly get any thinner than it already is? Well, it turns out Apple might already be at work on ways to help slim it down, according to a patent for a new design that would combine the USB and SD card ports into one slot.

The patent, which was originally filed in December 2011 and published earlier today, refers to a “combined input port” that would let Apple put SD card slots onto even its smallest 11-inch MacBook Air, which currently comes equipped with just USB and Thunderbolt ports. The new technology could also lead the way to thinner versions of the larger 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models. It could also provide a way to add additional ports to the side of a MacBook, since there won’t be a need to separate the card reader from a USB port.

Here’s a quote from the patent explaining how a USB/SD card hybrid port might work:

In some embodiments, the input port may have electrical contacts located at different depths for the different connectors, e.g., a first set of contacts for the USB plug and a second set of contacts for the memory card. In this manner, the correct contacts may be aligned with the correct connector, even though both connectors may be inserted into the same port.

It’s unclear if the patent, which was filed almost two years ago, will be implemented in the next generation of Apple laptops. Patents don’t always lead to a final products, so Apple could have ditched this idea long ago.

Source USPTO