The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 16 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today and in our third report of the day, we focus on perhaps the most intriguing granted patent of the day. It's a patent that could already be DOA – or it could be a glimpse of various forms of Apple TV that Apple could be advancing ever so quietly behind the scenes. Most of us don't think that Apple is finished with Apple TV just yet – and today's patent just adds fuel to that fire.
An Advanced Set-Top-Box Patent
Apple's latest granted patent keeps the fire alive that Apple TV could still be in development and in search of a solution that Apple could live with. Today's granted patent relates to next generation feature sets covering advanced broadcast TV menus and search options for programming. Then again, one twist is about doing away with the box altogether in exchange for a cable card that could consist of Apple TV software.
In the beginning, Apple points to the familiar Apple TV-like box /media system but with added functionality that many of us would still appreciated. The media system according to Apple could "include a set-top box with or without a digital video recorder (DVR) (or, personal video recorder (PVR).
In other example implementations, a display with built-in functionality (e.g., a television), a computer system, a phone, a PDA, an iPod or any other media environment. That last point is well supported in yet another Apple patent that was published almost a year ago, whereby Apple's Media Players could one day be both portable TV & DVR. That sounds feasible considering that the iPad appears to be a little more TV friendly.
In other implementations, subsets of the functionality shown in Apple's patent FIG. 1 could be included in a media card for insertion into a display device. Media systems could also be used to connect a media environment to a video content provider, such as a cable service provider, for example.
Multiple Search Engines
In one implementation, the functionality of the media system is distributed across several engines as noted in FIG.1 above. For example, the media system may include a remote control engine, a user interface (UI) engine, a channel engine, a browse engine, a presentation engine, a recording engine, a search engine, an extraction engine, and a metadata retrieval engine.
Program information could be obtained using a metadata content provider, such as for example, Tribute TV Data, available from Tribune Media Services, Inc., of Chicago, Ill., or Gemstar TV guide, available from Gemstar-TV Guide International, Inc., of Los Angeles, Calif.
The metadata could be pushed or pulled from the metadata content provider. Many DVR systems operate using a system whereby the metadata is periodically sent to the DVR using the same broadcast transport stream as the video content data or on a data stream alongside the broadcast transport stream. However, there are many ways to disseminate the metadata information, including using an internet connection.
In various implementations, metadata content providers could include formal metadata libraries from iTunes, Amazon or NetFlix.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 is a screen shot illustrating an example of a user interface for a media system having a related content search options.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 is a flowchart of a method for retrieving related metadata content using a media system like Apple TV. The content could be broadcast video content (e.g., cable, DBS, over-the-air, etc.) received from a content provider using a content provider network.
Apple's patent FIG. 8 depicts an example screen shot displaying a content presentation and a menu interface. The menu interface includes a number of buttons (815-850) which could be selectable by the user to find various data on a TV or movie such as biographies of the actors or trivia related to a particular show.
Apple credits Rainer Brodersen, Rachel Goldeen, Mihnea Pacurariu and Jeffrey Ma as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,865,927.
At the End of the Day
At the end of the day, Apple TV is in flux. Some appear to like it but most don't. Apple's current iteration of Apple TV could simply be one of many future solutions in the pipeline. I think we could one day envision a 30-32" OLED Cinema Display being able to add a cable card option which would be rather cool. Adding Apple TV "the App" to the iPad is yet another option. I personally don't get Apple's beef with the cable industry and yet perhaps with Verizon and a flood of new wireless TV solutions coming to market globally, Apple will simply one day give the masses what they want: an advanced DVR/PVR that actually works with TV like their own patent supports. Apple - Just Do it. Poke a finger in Google's eye and be done with it already (ha!).
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