Apple's iPhone to Gain Native vCard Solution for SMS
One of Apple's patent applications that were published late last week by the US Patent & Trademark Office almost snuck through without being noticed. This interesting patent generally relates to text messaging, and more particularly to sending and receiving of contact information via text message protocols. For example, a mobile device user may desire to send contact information (e.g., an electronic contact/business card) via SMS. Electronic business cards are typically marked up according to a particular file format (e.g., vCard). Conventional text messaging services are not capable of recognizing the markups associated with an electronic business card. As such, attempts to send an electronic business card as a text message will result in a receiving user being presented with a garbled mixture of contact information and inline markups. Apple's patent provides an excellent solution to rectify this problem. It should be noted that while there are at least eleven vCard apps for the iPhone available today, it appears that Apple is thinking of a secondary vCard solution of their own in the future. Currently, Apple's new iPhone 3GS offers a modern MMS vCard solution which clearly differs from today's patent focusing on a vCard solution for SMS.
The mobile device is becoming increasingly ubiquitous as a communication tool. In addition to its use as a cell phone, the mobile device is often used for other forms of communication including email, text messaging and the like. Text message services and protocols (e.g., Short Message Service (SMS)) are primarily designed to handle simple short messages of text. Depending on the protocol(s) used, text messages are limited to a single text message size of either 160 7-bit characters, 140 8-bit characters, or 70 16-bit characters.
A markup language is a set of annotations (or markups) to text that describes how the text is to be structured, laid out, parsed or formatted. It is common in many markup languages to have the text of a document intermingled with markup instructions in the same data stream or file. These embedded or "inline" markups can be processed by various applications, services and/or programs designed with such capability.
However, applications, services and/or programs without such capability are often forced to present the intended text along with the inline markups via a user interface. Such presentation can it make it difficult, confusing and/or aesthetically unpleasant for a user to view. For example, electronic business cards are typically marked up according to a particular file format (e.g., vCard). Conventional text messaging services are not capable of recognizing the markups associated with an electronic business card. As such, attempts to send an electronic business card as a text message will result in a receiving user being presented with a garbled mixture of contact information and inline markups.
Apple's Patent Summary
A first mobile device receives an input to send data via a text messaging protocol to a second mobile device. For example, a mobile device user may desire to send contact information (e.g., an electronic contact/business card) via SMS. The data is marked up with one or more transparent text message characters to delimit fields in the data. The marked up data is transmitted via the text messaging protocol to the second mobile device. If the second mobile device is capable of recognizing the transparent field delimiters in the received text message – then it will automatically convert the data (e.g., into an electronic contact/business card). If the second mobile device does not have this recognition capability, then the contact information in the text message will be presented in a clean, clear and readable format.
Sending/Receiving a vCard via SMS
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating transmission of contact information to different devices according to various embodiments. X-Type device 110 contains data including electronic business card 112. As shown, X-Type device 110 can send a copy of electronic business card 112 via Short Message Service (SMS) transmission to X-Type device 120 and Y-Type device 130. In various embodiments, X-Type devices, as shown in FIG. 1, could be, for example, iPhones from Apple Inc. of Cupertino, Calif. However, the term X-Type device is intended to represent any mobile device capable of sending, recognizing and converting an electronic business card from an SMS transmission according to embodiments described herein. In other words, X-Type devices can be different products from different manufacturers.
In contrast, a Y-Type device 130 is intended to represent any mobile device that is not equipped to send, recognize and convert an electronic business card from an SMS transmission according to embodiments described herein. Though various embodiments described herein discuss the use of SMS text messages, any protocol or service that sends clear text messages could also be used in different embodiments (e.g., email clients, social networking sites and micro-blogging sites such as Twitter, comment sections in blogs and other forums, etc.) When an X-Type device (e.g., X-Type device 120) receives a text message that includes an electronic business card, it may be automatically converted into electronic business card 122. In some embodiments, the text message may only be converted after receiving user input requesting the conversion. Data (e.g., contact information, etc.) associated with the electronic business card may constitute the whole text message or merely part of the text message.
An iPhone vCard Sent to a Y-Type Device via SMS in an Organized Fashion
Remember that a Y-Type device is intended to represent any mobile device that is not equipped to send, recognize and convert an electronic business card from an SMS transmission. Patent figure 4A is an illustration of what a vCard transmission would look like between two Y-Types of devices. In contrast, patent figure 4B is an illustration of what an iPhone vCard sent to a Y-Type of device would look like: relatively clear and organized.
SMS Conversion Engine
Apple's patent FIG. 7A is a block diagram illustrating various components of a mobile device used in various embodiments. Mobile device 702 includes storage for one or more electronic business cards 712. An SMS conversion engine 710 parses the electronic business card into various fields and marks up the fields using transparent text message characters based on various rules and structures 714.The marked up electronic business card is then sent as an SMS text message 716 to mobile device 704. If mobile device 704 is not equipped to recognize and convert SMS text message 716 back into an electronic business card, mobile device 704 can simply display the contact information associated with the electronic business card. Given that the text message is marked up with transparent text message characters, the contact information will be displayed in a relatively clear and organized manner, as described previously in FIG.4B.
Apple's patent FIG. 7B is a block diagram illustrating further details of a mobile device capable of receiving and converting an electronic business card from an SMS text message. When a text message 720 is received by mobile device 706 (sent, for example, from mobile device 702 of FIG. 7A), SMS conversion engine 710 recognizes various patterns in the text message. The patterns in the text message are formed from transparent text message characters. Given the patterns and based on various rules and structures 714, SMS conversion engine 710 parses text message 720 into various fields and converts the information in those fields into an electronic business card 722. The entire text message can be converted to an electronic business card or only a relevant portion of text message 720 may be converted in some embodiments.
Apple credits Scott Herz and Marcel Van Os as the inventors of patent application 20090305730.
Another Noteworthy Patent Application
The Technology behind the Graphic Effects used in the OS X Dock
Apple's patent FIG. 1 illustrates a transformation of a rectangular window 105 displayed on a screen 101 into an arbitrary shape window 107 displayed on screen 102 as the window minimizes to a docking bar. As shown in FIG. 1, a rectangular child window 106, which is related to window 105, may be displayed on a screen 101. Child window 106 may be, e.g., a sheet that appears on a "save" panel, a drawer, a menu, and the like. Window 105 may have a shadow 104. A docking bar ("dock") 103 may be displayed on screen 101. The dock, as in Mac Operating System produced by Apple Inc., located in Cupertino, Calif., may be used to display frequently used applications, applications that are currently executed by the processor of the data processing system, or both.
As shown in FIG. 1, window 105 is transformed to window 107 having an arbitrary shape as it slides into a dock 108 on a screen 102. As shown in FIG. 1, the child window is hidden when parent window 107 arbitrarily transforms its shape. That is, the child window may not mimic the shape and motion of the parent window, as the parent window arbitrarily transforms its shape. As shown in FIG. 1, shadow 104 disappears when window 107 arbitrarily transforms its shape.
Apple's patent FIG. 10 illustrates one embodiment of transforming a shadow associated with a window and patent FIG. 12 illustrates one embodiment of generating a transformation for a compressed shadow associated with a window.
Apple credits Joel Kraut for patent application 20090303242. For more information, view this temporary link.
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