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Apple explores merging cloud content with locally stored media library

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Apple could blur the lines between locally saved media files and additional content streamed from the cloud, listing all files as if they are part of the same media library on a device like an iPhone or a Mac.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week revealed a new patent application from Apple entitled "Audio Clips for Announcing Remotely Accessed Media Items." Discovered by AppleInsider, it details a system that would include a centralized list of media files -- some saved locally, and others available remotely.

The application suggests that Apple's long-rumored cloud-based iTunes music streaming service could allow users to seamlessly merge their locally saved media files with additional content available for streaming via the Internet. Rather than having a separate list of cloud-based content, all of the media would be listed in one location, and the Internet-connected device would play back the selected content from the appropriate location.

The application focuses largely on the audio "announcing" of selected content, as with the VoiceOver feature for the iPod shuffle. It suggests that such announcements would be accessed from prerecorded files that would be stored locally on the device, while unavailable announcements would be streamed remotely.

"The device can include an audio clip of an artist name, song title, and album name, for example generated using a text to speech engine, or pre-recorded by an actor," the application reads. "The electronic device, however, may only locally store audio clips for media items that the device knows will be played back, for example locally stored media items."

However, a more practical use for Apple's described invention would, of course, be for the streaming actual media itself, rather than VoiceOver clips, which are typically instantly generated. To this end, the patent filing details the ability of a user to "play back media items that are not locally stored" by streaming them from a "remote server."

The application describes media being identified by locally stored metadata, detailing the artist, song title or album title of a particular track, or other information for different types of media. By reviewing this metadata, a connected device like an iPhone could then begin streaming the appropriate content from the cloud, if the file is not locally stored on the device. Apple's filing notes that streamed media could be made available through the iTunes Music Store, or via an alternate source.



Apple has reportedly been interested in offering a cloud-based iTunes service for some time, but has had difficulties in securing the appropriate licensing deals with content providers. To bolster its cloud music efforts, Apple acquired streaming music service Lala in late 2009, but nothing has come of that investment yet.

Lala allowed users to upload their music collection to remote servers and stream it back on any computer via a Web browser. Some have speculated that type of service would be an appropriate use for Apple's $1 billion server farm in North Carolina.
post #2 of 14
How is it possible to patent something so trivial and obvious
post #3 of 14
I wish Apple would get on with its 'cloud' already (including a complete revamp of their currently mediocre over-the-air offerings.)
post #4 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by steve-p View Post

How is it possible to patent something so trivial and obvious

Patent laws really need to be changed. I was doing this with a rich-media training environment almost a decade ago. Only difference is they didn't call it "the cloud." I'm doing stuff now that I came up with independently that I am sure is violating someone's patent.

I've developed an HTML5/CSS3 based e-reader that no one else has. Is it patentable? I would think not because it is just clever usage of new browser functions available to any web developer. Someone else will eventually discover the same usage of styles and javascript.
post #5 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by steve-p View Post

How is it possible to patent something so trivial and obvious

It's just a patent application. It's not going to get granted.

Let's hope whilst they are cloning WP7 functionality they copy the Zune Pass as well
post #6 of 14
I think something like this is inevitable. Don't know if they can get a patent, but I think the reason for them to apply is mainly to insure that someone ELSE does not get a patent on it.
post #7 of 14
I wonder if Apple really is only waiting for a Patent approval for something or another to open up that Data Farm?
post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Snitch View Post

I think something like this is inevitable. Don't know if they can get a patent, but I think the reason for them to apply is mainly to insure that someone ELSE does not get a patent on it.

That's a very good point and I have a great deal of sympathy for that attitude. It is no doubt internally referred to as the "East Texas Defense Strategy".
From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
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From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
Long on AAPL so biased
Google Motto "You're not the customer. You're the product."
Reply
post #9 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by kbsbeme View Post

I've developed an HTML5/CSS3 based e-reader that no one else has. Is it patentable? I would think not ...

Now that's where you're right AND wrong. Of course it's patentable, and if you have enough money, you can get the patent and then look for violator and make some $ on licensing after a round or 2 of lawsuits. For everyone else who can't afford it, you basically can invent whatever you want on your own and then watch as other companies reveal they thought of it and 'own' the idea - even if you had it working first. The only thing you would gain by a lawsuit is maybe (best case) getting their patent thrown out, not any licensing since you didn't patent it first, so it's not worth it unless they come after you personally.

And that's just the financial screw-over of the system, not even getting into the obviousness side. If you're going to implement streaming from a cloud service, one of the first things you're going to do is make links to media that are resolved at run time - local or remote. Your purchases might not all be local, so... duh! And unless you want to prompt users to download first, you instead let it stream and... double-duh!

A friend and I were having a discussion on this exact cloud-streaming topic a couple of weeks back, and my comment was "there's a patent!", and his comment was "There's no way someone doesn't already have that, it's way too obvious.". There was another part of the discussion, and this makes me wonder if that part is still worth trying to ram into the system so I can get paid royalties for the obvious. Because if you can't beat them, you may as well join them, right? [And unless you have millions to pay off the politicians with, you aren't going to get these laws changed and beat them...]

Anyway, where I meant that you're right is that it shouldn't be patentable, and wrong because it probably is. \
post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

That's a very good point and I have a great deal of sympathy for that attitude. It is no doubt internally referred to as the "East Texas Defense Strategy".

Good point indeed, though sadly if Microsoft suddenly revealed they are doing their cloud music streaming using a similar concept, it probably wouldn't be long before the lawsuit papers are filed, assuming this patent is granted.

Well, maybe not Microsoft given that they're not a real competitor in the space at the moment, but you know what I mean.
post #11 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrstep View Post

Good point indeed, though sadly if Google suddenly revealed they are doing their cloud music streaming using a similar concept, it probably wouldn't be long before the lawsuit papers are filed, assuming this patent is granted.

Fixed. MS have already been doing this for a long time so your comment didn't make sense.

Assuming the patent is granted and Google started doing the same thing Apple might have a case. It's not going to be granted though.
post #12 of 14
First, as a side-note I have to say that this sentence ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

...However, a more practical use for Apple's described invention would, of course, be for the streaming actual media itself, rather than VoiceOver clips, which are typically instantly generated. ...

... has likely caused a thousand English teachers to die, screaming in agony.

More substantively however, I'm not so sure that this statement below should be trotted out every time we talk about Apple's move to the cloud.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

...Apple has reportedly been interested in offering a cloud-based iTunes service for some time, but has had difficulties in securing the appropriate licensing deals with content providers. To bolster its cloud music efforts, Apple acquired streaming music service Lala in late 2009, but nothing has come of that investment yet....

I'm not saying this might not be somewhat accurate in terms of what Apple is going to use the giant server farms for, but there's lots of other possibilities as well that would also be nice to hear once in a while.

For instance it makes much more sense to me that the server farm is connected to the new mobile platform (iPhones, iPad) in that with a properly designed, cloud-based aspect, an iPad all of a sudden becomes a viable and extremely useful *primary* computer instead of merely something you sync to your primary computer.

"iTunes in the cloud" has almost zero appeal for me personally, and wouldn't really work that well for anyone who doesn't buy all their content from Apple. I'm not saying they aren't going to do it anyway, but we could all use a bit more original thinking here instead of just dragging out the "iTunes in the cloud" meme every time we talk about the cloud at all.

I'd like someone to explain to me how "iTunes in the cloud" will even work, when currently you can't even sync a few hundred MB's of stuff to your iDisk in less than 8 hours. If I throw files in my iDisk at work, they are often still syncing when I get home. I can literally burn a DVD and copy it over at both locations faster than that.

I'm currently using up about 30 Gigs for my Music and probably ten or twenty times that in video files. I am pretty sure I would die of old age before I'd even complete the first sync with the cloud (assuming I want to sync all that stuff in the cloud). It seems to me that unless some dramatic improvements in infrastructure and speed are made, this kind of tech is really years and years away and not just around the corner as everyone implies.
post #13 of 14
Irrespective of patent issues, the execution is something that I expect apple to do and do well. The NC facilty is one important part of the formula. Contrary to geek rantings, no, the full cloud is not ready for prime time--and most people are not ready to surrender all their data and apps to it even if it were. Perhaps the cloud will never be a 100% solution for many of us. I had a colleague try to convince me of its imminent arrival in 1997 and it's still not come to his predictions. So, only time will tell.

Apple is smart to "blur the lines" and have a foot in both device local and cloud, merging them when it seems appropriate. Apple's middle way will be the least disruptive and most secure for most users and it will rain still more profits on them. "All or nothing, let's get this over with" solutions do not work in the real world. The best solutions to complex problems are long range and far thinking and that is why the Chinese are going to eat our lunch.
post #14 of 14
It's amazing content providers are being difficult ... they are all making just as much or more money due to iTunes, can generally focus on producing content vs. distribution and they don't have to figure out how to move to the digital world (Apple has figured that out for them).

I certainly understand anyone wanting to get as much as they can, but at some point, content providers start to sound like they are whining.
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