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iTunes MobileMe phone! You bet! In fact, here's the proof!

There are very few sure things in this world- death, taxes, net neutrality legislation with teeth won't pass- and the fact that Apple will offer an iTunes phone, an ITunes Wi-Fi-enabled device, or both. Back in January, I wrote about the MobileMe trademark Apple had just filed.
Written by Russell Shaw, Contributor on
applepatentabstract.jpg

There are very few sure things in this world- death, taxes, net neutrality legislation with teeth won't pass- and the fact that Apple will offer an iTunes phone, an ITunes Wi-Fi-enabled device, or both.

Back in January, I wrote about the MobileMe trademark Apple had just filed. Now, colleague David Berlind notes the revelation that Apple has applied for a patent that most certainly sounds like they want to get involved in the phone business.

I am now going to show you a couple of pictures from the patent app just published yesterday, and then tell you what they mean, in Apple's own words.

First, you need to take a look at this:

applepatentfigure1.jpg
 

Follow along and (with my boldfacing) I will tell you what Apple says this means:

 

FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a multi-device media purchase system 100 according to one embodiment of the invention. The multi-device media purchase system 100 includes an online media store server 102. The online media store server 102 stores a plurality of available digital media items that can be purchased via client devices over a network. As shown in FIG. 1, the multi-device media purchase system 100 includes a first client device 104 and a second client device 106. The first client device 104 is a wireless device that couples to a low-bandwidth network 108 (e.g., wireless network). The low-bandwidth network 108 in turn couples to a gateway 110 that links the low-bandwidth network 108 to a high-bandwidth network 112 (e.g., wired network). As an example, the high-bandwidth network 112 can generally be referred to as a wide area network or the Internet. The second client device 106 couples to the high-bandwidth network 112. Additionally, the online media storage server 102 couples to the high-bandwidth network 112. In one implementation, the low-bandwidth network 108 can refer to a low data-bandwidth wireless network, such as current cellular telephone networks, and the high-bandwidth network 112 can refer to high data-bandwidth networks, namely, wired networks, such as Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, and fiber optic, as well as wireless networks such as IEEE 802.11(a)(b) or (g) (WiFi), IEEE 802.16 (WiMax), and Ultra-Wide Band (UWB).

According to the invention, a user at the first client device 104 can interact with the online media store server 102 via the low-bandwidth network 108 and the high-bandwidth network 112. In this way, the user at the first client device 104 can browse, preview, mark or purchase one or more digital media items available on the online media store server 102. The mark or purchase operations usually require the user to first identify one or more digital media items of interest. The identified digital media item(s) of interest can then be marked (for review or for purchase) or purchased. Typically, however, the first client device 104 is a device that does not desire to have the identified digital media item(s) downloaded from the online media store server 102 to the first client device 104 via the low-bandwidth network 108, but rather to another device. Downloading of digital media items over the low-bandwidth network 108 can be slow and costly given that the file size of the digital media items tend to be large.

I have one more Figure I want to show you from the Patent app:

applepatentfigure3a.jpg
 

Whoa. Kind of looks like an iPod with an antenna, eh?

Well, Apple explains this in their patent app as the following: (bold face is mine):

FIG. 3A shows a generalized device suitable for use as a portable wireless device 305 (non-transfer device) according to one embodiment of the invention. The portable wireless device 305 includes a display 310 used to view text or graphics, an antenna 315 for connecting to a wireless network such as a cellular phone network or wireless data network, and a control panel 320 such as a keypad or touchpad. Browsing, marking and/or purchasing media items according to several of the embodiments detailed in this application may be accomplished by using a browser application such as a WAP browser (not shown). Additionally, portable wireless device 305 contains one or more of the following (not shown): one or more speakers, a microphone, a headphone jack, a port for connecting with a transfer device (e.g., FireWire.RTM. or USB port), one or more slots to accept flash memory cards (e.g., CompactFlash (CF) or SmartMedia (SM) cards), and one or more antennae or ports used to connect to a local networks, for example, Bluetooth.RTM., infrared (IR), or WiFi (IEEE 802.11). Contained within portable wireless device 305 is system memory (not shown), which may include both volatile and nonvolatile memory and, optionally, a hard drive (not shown).

So what happens after this cell or Wi-Fi enabled iPod hits the streets? Will it only offer wireless connectivity to the iTunes store, or is there something bigger in the works? I would bet on the latter, probably as some sort of MobileMe-branded, MVNO-type of service sold by Apple, and then enabled via cell or Wi-Fi partners. Think T-Mobile, set up to do both.

 David Berlind thinks thusly about how such a business model might work:

Accessing the iTunes Music Store from a portable handset will probably require Internet connectivity which in turn will involve some sort of premium charge.  But there too, just like with the music labels, Jobs will be handily in charge of pricing.   The conversation is relatively simple.  "You charge $10 a month instead of the $80 that you normally charge for Internet access, and I'll let you sell my phone."  Maybe it won't go exactly like that.  But that is the sort of leverage that Apple's monopoly control (and that's me saying it's a monopoly… not some trustbuster) of digital content sales (afforded to it by its proprietary DRM), that Jobs will have over the wireless carriers.  A key to yet another kingdom.

And, may I emphasize, this service will be sold as MobileMe. Or else would Apple have bothered to trademark the term? 

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