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Apple Media Player GUI in Sync wit In- Car Stereo GUI 

A new Apple patent application published by the USPTO today reveals that Apple is working on a new system that will give in-vehicle infotainment and gym equipment manufacturers the ability to sync their various display information or entertainment GUIs to that of  Apple's media player GUIs – be it an iPod or iPhone. Today's in-vehicle infotainment or stereo systems stating to be iPod compatible don't really provide us with much of a UI to work with and certainly not one that is reflective of Apple's media players accurately. Apple's new system could expand to include apps like iCal, Voice Memos, Maps, iPhoto or iMovie depending on the size of the infotainment system and the condition of the vehicle. Movies can't play in the dashboard while the vehicle is moving but could play if on the seat back for passenger enjoyment. This future capability will be greatly appreciated by all who love Apple's media players.  The sooner the better!


New System Overview


Some remote control devices provide a graphical user interface (GUI) and allow the user to perform more advanced functions such as browsing a database of stored content, selecting content to play, etc. For instance, Johnson Controls International has been developing a "Mobile Device Gateway" for use in vehicles; the system includes a connection point for a portable media device and a console that provides an audio/visual interface. But existing remote GUIs are defined and controlled by the remote control device, and consequently, they may bear little resemblance to a GUI supplied by the portable media device itself like the iPod or iPhone.


Certain functions available on the portable media device (such as browsing or searching a database, adjusting playback settings, etc.) may be unavailable or difficult to find. Thus, a user may not be able to perform desired functions. Further, GUIs provided for the same portable media device by different remote control devices might be quite different, and the user who connects a portable media device to different accessories with remote control may find the inconsistencies frustrating.


Apple's patent presents us with a system and means of creating a consistent remote user interface experience.


Embodiments of the present invention relate to providing a graphical user interface ("GUI") on a remote control accessory device (e.g. car stereo), where the GUI can be defined and managed by Apple's portable media players rather than the accessory device. The accessory device can provide a combination of user input and visual feedback devices, such as a video screen for presenting information and feedback to a user, along with buttons, knobs, touchscreen and/or touchpad for receiving user input. The portable media device can provide the accessory with an image to be displayed on the video screen; the image can include various user interface elements that can resemble or replicate a "native" GUI provided directly on the portable media device.


In-Vehicle Stereo Matching iPod GUI png Tint

Apple's patent FIGS. 1A and 1B show us a Classic iPod (102) and accessory which in this case is an in-vehicle stereo built into a vehicle dashboard, but could be incorporated into a vehicle seat back including that on an airline seat or even gym equipment like a treadmill.


The idea is simply to have Apple's Media Players control the GUI of these varied accessory systems. Apple's management system would understand the dimensions of the in-vehicle stereo system display and be able to provide different UI elements to different systems depending on their capabilities. Translation: If the in-vehicle system has built-in wireless capabilities, you would be able to use your iPhone in a hands free manner. Larger in-vehicle systems that you'd typically see in a van, for instance, could provide the user with a very robust and sophisticated Apple Media Player GUI to accommodate apps like voice memo, Maps, iCal, contacts or movies.


Of course the system ensures that movie playback could only be active if the vehicle is parked or is in use only for back seat passengers. The video operation can be enabled or disabled depending on whether the vehicle's speed is above or below the threshold.


The media player is connected to the vehicles on-board computer system to ensure safety. Apple's media player system manager could also monitor a vehicle's speed and send a SetStatusInfo command reporting the current speed, either periodically or when it detects that the vehicle's speed crosses above or below a predetermined threshold.


In the case of using the iPod's Maps, the ability to select different fonts or font sizes to make remote GUI elements and displayed information larger and easier to read is an advantage that the patent lists.


In the case of the iPhone the patent specifically states that the remote GUI for telephony can resemble the Portable Media Device's native GUI for telephony, thus providing the user with a more intuitive interface and potentially reducing distraction related to operating an unfamiliar remote interface.


System including media player & accessory fig 2 png

Apple credits William Bull, Anthony Fadell, Jesse Lee Dorogusker and Emily Clark Schubert as the inventors of patent application 20090284476 originally filed in Q2 2008. In Figure 2 PMD means Portable Media Device.


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With Apple's tablet computer in the wings one can see it's potential in the automobile dashboard. Apple can use their tablet success to invade the automobile market. Their in-house chip team could enable broader use of OS X capabilities while still not a full OS version in targeted markets like automobiles.

It looks like Apple's "stool" concept of markets will be eclipsed by multiple stools in the future.

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