New software would let iPhones access to iTunes libraries from anywhere

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
A new version of Apple's iPhone Software could provide iPhone and iPod touch users with access to their home computer's entire iTunes media library while on the go without having to first download those media items through a traditional sync, a new company filing has revealed.



The Cupertino-based electronics maker notes that downloading media items from a computer to a media player is often a time consuming process, and one that is limited by the player's storage capacity. Therefore, users who are out and about sometimes find themselves without access to some of their content, which sits inaccessible on their home Mac or PC.



New versions iTunes and the iPhone Software could theoretically eliminate this problem by syncing only the metadata -- or tiny files containing the barebones attributes of each media item or playlist but not the content itself -- from a user's iTunes library to their portable devices.



Using this metadata, iPhones and iPods would contain "virtual media items" representing every playlist, video, photo, and mobile game stored on their computer, even if the sum of those files would ordinarily be too large to fit onto the devices' hard disk drive or flash drive. This is possible because metadata capable of representing a media item consumes only faction -- typically less than 1 percent -- of the space required to store the media item itself.



"As a result, the user perceives that the virtual media items may be available on the [the media player]," Apple said. "In this manner, the virtual capacity of an electronic device may be increased."



Users would select virtual media items for display or playback on their handhelds just as they would today under the assumption that the entire contents of the file sit on the device for immediate playback. But instead of accessing the files from the device's built-in storage, the iPhone or iPod would use a wired, Wi-Fi, or cellular connection to remotely access and retrieve the media items from a user's home Mac or PC.



"For instance, a personal computer can be turned on and connected to the Internet to enable a portable device to access the media items stored on the personal computer," Apple said, adding that the files could then delete themselves from the portable device once the user is done listening to or viewing them.







Through similar techniques, users could also manage their iTunes libraries remotely, reorganizing, deleting, or adding files while on the go. During all of these processes, the condition of the handheld's connection to a host source would be under constant surveillance to detect problems or a fading signal, at which time data transfer could be safely paused or stopped.



Alternatively, iPods and iPhones could communicate with one another in a manner similar to that employed by Microsoft's Zune media players.



"This type of communication can be referred to as peer-to-peer interaction. In this regard, one mobile device can communicate directly with another mobile device" or " to a plurality of other mobile devices," Apple said. "In the peer-to-peer environment, one mobile device can communicate with one or more other electronic devices (whether mobile or stationary) in the immediate vicinity. Data sharing can be performed when such communication is available."



The 24-page filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is credited to Apple employees David Heller and Thomas Mavrakakis.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    I'd definitely pay for this. Even better if it's part of MobileMe.
  • Reply 2 of 33
    galleygalley Posts: 971member
    I've been predicting this for more than a year. Think of it as a portable Apple TV.
  • Reply 3 of 33
    deapeajaydeapeajay Posts: 909member
    Yeah right, I'm sure this would really fly with AT&T.



    If it does happen, they would probably restrict it for use on a WiFi connection, just like the Music store.
  • Reply 4 of 33
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Galley View Post


    I've been predicting this for more than a year. Think of it as a portable Apple TV.



    I have been doing the poor man's version of this for a while, by placing MP3s in my gmail account, and accessing them via the mobile browser...



    not very efficient, my method
  • Reply 5 of 33
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,588member
    In a wifi context this is pretty cool. It strikes me that this would be a great way to burn up your monthly data allowance in a day or two, however, if you are using the GSM network! It also means keeping your computer at home on all day which I don't like the idea of. Maybe all this content should be stored in the cloud using mobileMe, as someone suggested. In terms of music, come to think of it, most content is already out there. So if you have the metadata, including digital proof you have paid for the content, couldn't it be streamed from anywhere? Theoretically speaking of course.
  • Reply 6 of 33
    nonimusnonimus Posts: 60member
  • Reply 7 of 33
    sxt1sxt1 Posts: 11member
    remember apple placed a warning for september (or october) to invest in something to assure their products being superior in the future ?

    Maybe they want to put those 3G ship in all those future mac's, imac, macbook(pro) etc

    Then also a homebrew chipset would make some sense...

    Then the MobileMe environment would make sense also don't you think ?

    Plus adding mobile versions of iMovie, iCal, etc. (and that made possible by the next iphone with a stronger cpu made by pa semi)

    And a new mac-tablet that features a 3G chip also...



    Just making new (mobile ready) macs in the future and software that is adapted to those platforms

    making snowloepard paving the way and 10.6 taking the crowne !



    that's my rough idea about it
  • Reply 8 of 33
    walshbjwalshbj Posts: 864member
    This is what Apple can get away with, and nobody else can. Appleinsider posts info on this filing, and people read it like it's a new concept, even though it's just streaming! My Apple TV does it, as other comments point out.



    As a stockholder, I like seeing Apple hold back features for YEARS - and keep people coming back for upgrades. As a user it drives me crazy.



    I don't question Apple on this too much. I think it helps preserve their delicate placement as a premium brand. MS puts the first Zune out with the ability to 'squirt' songs peer to peer. Nobody cares. If Apple did it we'd see it on the front page of the NYT.



    Time after time Apple shows their conservative side, taking their time, making you want it, building up the hype, building up the demand. Everyone else rushes half-baked crap to market. Apple is slowly building the whole system for home media. It's impressive.
  • Reply 9 of 33
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by chwilliam View Post


    I'd definitely pay for this. Even better if it's part of MobileMe.



    It would have to be part of MobileMe. That would also mean that Back to My Mac would need to work seamlessly for everyone first. My current ADSL configuration makes me jump through hoops to get it kind of working, and not even all the time.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    Maybe all this content should be stored in the cloud using mobileMe, as someone suggested.



    By the time they get the new software out, maybe storage costs will make it conveniente for Apple to increase the MobileMe allowance to 50 GB. That would make the whole thing feasible. Including, maybe, actual remote file access from iPhone/iPod touch. (The MacBook Air might take advantage of something like that too.)
  • Reply 10 of 33
    Simplify Media does this quite nice for my music. I use it to stream my music to my work pc!
  • Reply 11 of 33
    hdasmithhdasmith Posts: 145member
    I would like to see a system that allowed one to use their iDisk to save some music, movies, apps which can be accessed natively, but at the same time have the ability to store some media files locally on their iPhone. This would be the most beneficial use of the iDisk that I can imagine.
  • Reply 12 of 33
    I'm doing this with Remote Buddy already. I have access to my entire iTunes library on my iPhone at all times.
  • Reply 13 of 33
    mrpiddlymrpiddly Posts: 406member
    Take a look at telekinesis or the updated version welcome to your mac. Both are small applications hosted on your mac that allow your iPhone to access files, media, the screen, terminal, and the camera. These apps runs in the browser and require no iPhone download.



    There are some major problems with telekinesis that an actual iPhone applications would solve. I have been waiting for apple to make a telekinesis like application almost since the first iPhone's release.
  • Reply 14 of 33
    If the metadata confirms that the user has rights to the track, it seems like you would not necessarily need to access the actual AAC track from your own computer. Couldn't you access the same AAC track from anywhere -- an Apple server, Akamai mirror servers, peer to peer, etc.?



    Although Apple may not want to carry the server traffic, this download/sync is analogous "buying" the track through the iTunes Store every time you access it and only paying for it the first time.



    I guess the traffic is the difference.
  • Reply 15 of 33
    kreshkresh Posts: 379member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nonimus View Post


    Sound like the software 'nuTsie'



    http://www.nutsie.com



    or Simplify Media which has been submitted to Apple and is coming to the AppStore.



    I definitely don't see how Apple can get a a patent on this one.
  • Reply 16 of 33
    I wonder if this service allows you to stream directly from your computer to your iPhone or does it all have to go through Apple's servers. I like the convenience of cloud computing and things like MobileMe, but I'm still not convinced about having all my information being stored on a third-party. Although admittedly, ISPs can probably cache your data for later analysis if they wanted to too.



    Quote:

    During all of these processes, the condition of the handheld's connection to a host source would be under constant surveillance to detect problems or a fading signal, at which time data transfer could be safely paused or stopped.



    Somehow "constant surveillance" of connection quality doesn't sound conducive of good battery life.



    I still hope that Apple allows Airdisks on Base Stations and Time Capsules to act as a media store for iTunes. That would eliminate duplicate libraries on my computers, and allow streaming to iPhones without keeping the computer on all the time.
  • Reply 17 of 33
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by brutjens View Post


    Simplify Media does this quite nice for my music. I use it to stream my music to my work pc!



    This is already available via PSP and PS3 as well. Not exactly a ground breaking idea.
  • Reply 18 of 33
    It occurs to me that remote access to your file system is not a large jump beyond this. Even beyond streaming your music -- something which could even be made compatible with Edge -- you could get remote access to picture or even files to view on your iPhone. I would be surprised if those capabilities were released initially, but it seems the natural evolution, and if anyone is to make it possible it would be Apple.



    I'll be a little surprised if they make this a part of MobileMe. It would be pretty easy to build right into iTunes, thus making it accessible to everyone. It would also be a stand-out feature which could inspire greater sales.
  • Reply 19 of 33
    wobegonwobegon Posts: 764member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by walshbj View Post


    I don't question Apple on this too much. I think it helps preserve their delicate placement as a premium brand. MS puts the first Zune out with the ability to 'squirt' songs peer to peer. Nobody cares. If Apple did it we'd see it on the front page of the NYT.



    I don't think Apple has any interest in replicating what MS did with the Zune's squirting of what are essentially advertisements of songs that then vanish after a few plays or a few days.



    What's probably more likely for P2P communications with other iPhone/iPod touch users is music sharing, not music sending. It'd be just like iTunes music sharing between computers on the same network. This would be faster and more power efficient than sending the actual files back and fourth and of course, you'd only be limited by your distance from the person you're sharing with.



    I don't know if Apple could then expand that so you could share your music with others through the internet long-distance. They could surely allow users to stream/share their own music off their computers at home as the new software patent describes, but I'm not sure if the RIAA would be ok with long-distance sharing of other peoples' music.
  • Reply 20 of 33
    jawportajawporta Posts: 140member
    I'm sure this would work just as shitty as Back to my Mac. Who cares.
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