Last November we reported on Apple's preliminary work on Millimeter-Wave and (NFC) Near Field Communication applications. One of the more unique applications that we presented at that time was Apple's concept of an iTunes Music Kiosk. It now appears that Apple's R&D teams are exploring a second type of concept retail kiosk. This time their focus is on providing consumers with the ability to purchase customized iTunes Gift Cards in a retail environment. The first idea is to enable the consumer to purchase a personalized iTunes Gift Card using either a stock photo from Apple's library or one from their own home photo library as the background of the card. The second idea is to provide consumers with the ability to purchase customized or personalized custom fitted gift cards that will fit inside Apple's retail packaging. Move over Hallmark – there's a new kid in town.
Cards which carry a monetary or credit value have become a common form of gift. These gift cards may be purchased, for example, at retail stores or on the internet, and given to the recipient for redemption. Traditionally, a gift card may be "loaded" with a monetary value or a certain number of credits, and the recipient may redeem the card in a store or online as if using a credit or debit card.
A particular example of popular gift cards are the iTunes gift cards, available from Apple Inc., which may be purchased in numerous retail locations or online and redeemed via the internet in the iTunes store, also available from Apple Inc. A traditional iTunes gift card may be purchased for a specific monetary value, at which time the card is activated, and redeemed online by entering a redemption code located on the card. The recipient may then search or browse the iTunes store for content and purchase music, movies, applications, or any number of items using the value on the gift card.
Today's iTunes Gift Cards offer consumers a lot of choices and Apple's intention is to expand upon that theme by allowing iTune gift cards to be further personalized with any photo of your choosing.
In addition, Apple is considering on making personalized iTunes gift cards available for gift box items like the iPod available at Apple Kiosks. In theory they may appear in places like Apple's own brick and mortar Apple Stores, perhaps at Best Buy, airports and/or establishments such as larger pharmacies or grocery retailers. Why buy a traditional birthday card when you could customize an iTunes gift card with a custom photo. It's more personal and the card itself is the gift all-in-one.
Welcome to the iTunes Kiosk
As illustrated in FIG. 7 below, Apple's patent point #50 presents the concept of a gift set that may include a customized Happy Birthday gift card for John (shown as patent point #52).
To facilitate this insertion, the customized gift card may be sized similarly to the personal media player to fit within existing packaging. In another embodiment, the customized gift card 52 may be included with the media player in a shipment, such as in an envelope included in a shipping box.
In one embodiment, the buyer may purchase a customized gift card via a dispenser or kiosk 60, illustrated in Apple's patent FIG. 8 above. Customized gift card kiosks may be provided, for example, in retail shops, malls, grocery stores, etc. In the illustrated embodiment, the kiosk may include a user interface to enable the buyer to make selections, such as the gift card design and associated content. The user interface may be, for example, a multi-touch screen, a touch screen, a keyboard, a mouse, etc. The buyer may select desired content to associate with the customized card then select a design for the card.
The buyer may insert a flash memory card (e.g., CompactFlash card, SmartMedia card, Memory Stick, Multimedia card, Secure Digital card, etc.) into the card reader 64 to upload a personalized photo for printing on the gift card. Similarly, the buyer may connect a USB device (e.g., flash drive, portable hard drive, etc.) to the USB port 66 and/or a personal media player/cellular phone to the docking station 68 to upload personal images. Once the content has been selected and the card has been designed, the buyer may pay for the card and the content, for example, via a credit card scanner 70 or a cash reception slot 72 on the kiosk.
In another embodiment, the buyer may log into an internet-accessible account via the buyer interface 62 to pay for the gift card. The customized gift card with "preloaded" content may then be printed at the kiosk and dispensed to the buyer via a card dispenser slot 74.
Apple credits Michael Rosenblatt; Michael, Gloria Lin, Taido Nakajima, Sean Mayo and Andrew Hodge as the inventors of patent application, originally filed in Q3 2008. Michael Rosenblatt has 50 patents filed just from his tenure at Apple, where he co-managed the development of Apple's 5th Generation iPod and the 2nd Generation iPod Nano. Mr. Rosenblatt left Apple in November 2008.
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