Your Next iPod Might Be Part of the Cloud

If an Apple patent application that started making the rounds yesterday is any indication, a future version of the iPod or iPhone might be able to remotely access the entire iTunes media library sitting on your computer at home via a Wi-Fi or wireless telephone connection. Instead of having to carefully pick and choose what subset of your media you will carry with you on your device (because of its limited storage capacity), you'll have instant access to all of your media--that is, assuming your device has an active Internet connection and you remembered to leave your computer on.

Before we dive into the details, here is the high-level description of the technology as it appears in the Abstract for the actual patent application, titled "Remote access of media items":

"Methods and systems that facilitate the downloading of media items to a first network device from a second network device are disclosed. A plurality of media items are identified. Media item metadata associated with the plurality of media items is obtained from the second network device and stored on the first network device. Media item content data associated with a first subset of the plurality of media items is obtained from the second network device and stored on the first network device. In this manner, only media item metadata associated with a second subset of the plurality of media items is stored on the first network device."

In other words, the iPod or iPhone would contain the metadata information of all the media that is stored in the iTunes library of the PC at home, instead of the actual files themselves:

"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."

Once the media is selected, it can either be streamed from the home computer to the iPod or iPhone, or downloaded to the device. The user can later delete it from the device, knowing that the original media is still safely stored on the system back home. Additionally, "users could also manage their iTunes libraries remotely, reorganizing, deleting, or adding files while on the go."

TG Daily reports that the patent application also includes provisions for allowing iPods/iPhone to share media directly with each other:

"The company also proposes a Zune-like feature that would allow iPhone and iPod touch users to directly access media items stored on neighboring devices using peer-to-peer connectivity. "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 patent filing states."

Both AppleInsider and TG Daily imply that it might be possible to include this functionality into existing iPhones and iPod touches with firmware updates. As to when and if we will see this functionality come to iPhones and iPods, macnn theorizes that we might see it surface as early as next month, when the next version of the iPod is rumored to roll out. The date on the patent application is February 2, 2007, so Apple has had plenty of time to work on this. Apple files plenty of patent applications for technologies that never see the light of day, so there is no guarantee that we'll ever see this technology or necessarily see it in the fashion envisioned here. But we sure hope it makes to market and does so soon... It sounds very cool to us!
Tags:  iPod, Cloud, IPO, nex, art, XT, RT, IP, AR, Next