Last week Thursday brought another 22 patent applications published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office which have all been assigned to device and electronics manufacturer Apple Inc. This week, many of the applications relate to the kinds of efficiency improvements to computing systems and devices that have made the technology development firm famous. Last week’s published patent applications include a more space-effective design for mobile devices as well as an innovation that may possibly be revolutionary for the entire subscription publication industry.
For more Apple patent news please visit Apple Patents.
Method and Apparatus for Selling Subscriptions to Periodicals in a Retail Environment
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130024281
This Apple patent application looks to take advantage of the retail sale of more than one billion single-issue magazine copies that occur in American stores each year. As the application notes, these single issues are often two or three times the rate of the same issue when a subscription is purchased. They can send in a subscription card, but many find this time consuming. The result is a lot of lost revenue for the publishing industry, which thrives on subscription bases.
The intellectual property Apple seeks a patent for comprises a point-of-sale (POS) terminal for retail employees. This POS terminal is connected to subscription databases through the Internet. Once the magazine issue is scanned by the employee, the buyer could choose at that time to purchase a subscription through the retail store. The employee would just need to obtain the authentication code through the POS terminal and include that with the sale, and the database would receive the subscriber’s information.
Apple’s patent application describes the innovation in claim 1 as:
“A method comprising: receiving at an electronic terminal a request by a customer to purchase a single periodical; presenting an offer to sell a subscription to the periodical at a subscription rate; receiving an acceptance of the offer to sell the subscription; and recording the distribution of the single periodical as a first issue of the subscription.”
Handheld Computing Device
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130021280
Every mobile device developer finds that one of their most difficult challenges is striking a balance between offering the computing device with the best performance while using as little space as possible. Small, handheld devices are more aesthetically pleasing to users. However, mobile device design at this point in time still includes a number of fasteners and mounting structures that take up excess space within the device housing. This makes the device sturdy, but produces a heavier instrument that might be even more functional if the manufacturer could fit an extra circuit board inside.
The design improvements outlined in this Apple patent application are intended to reduce the number of fasteners and other mounting structures needed to manufacture the device. For instance, the new design mounts the top glass layer directly to housing seamlessly, without the use of a bezel. This opens up space for new component possibilities in the future.
Although claim 1 of this application has been canceled, claim 2 describes:
“An apparatus, comprising: a battery circuit comprising: a battery unit for storing charge used to power electronic components electrically connected thereto, and a battery safety circuit; and a display circuit comprising: a display unit for presenting images, and a display controller connected to the battery safety circuit by way of a flexible connector that is bent around the battery unit to reduce the overall Z height of the apparatus, wherein the battery safety circuit and the display controller coexist in the same Y location thereby reducing the overall Y component of the apparatus.”
Methods and Systems for Mixing Media with Communications
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130023250
Smartphones and other devices have grown so quickly in functionality that many developers have had a tough time keeping up with integration of these different applications. With more program integration, an iPhone user could accomplish even more through the use of a smartphone, whether for social interaction or for business.
Apple’s patent application describes a system of integrating media with communications to make it even easier for users to share audio, video or other media files. Multiple communication systems, including telephone, e-mail or text transmissions, are integrated with the user’s media storage to enable quick sharing. This is done without interrupting the communication (i.e.: ending the phone call). As claim 2 of this patent application states, Apple is seeking protection for:
“A method for transmitting media and communication data of an ongoing communications operation, comprising: establishing a communication path between a first communications device and a second communications device using the first communications device, wherein the communication path is established using a communications protocol; performing the ongoing communications operation with the second communications device over the established communication path using the first communications device; presenting a user interface for selecting at least one media item using the first communications device; receiving a user selection of the at least one media item through the user interface; combining at least a portion of the selected at least one media item with at least a portion of the communication data of the ongoing communications operation using the first communications device; and transmitting with the first communications device the combination of the at least a portion of the selected at least one media item and the at least a portion of the communication data to the second communications device over the established communication path using the communications protocol.”
User Supplied and Refined Tags
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130024329
The use of tags supplied by browsers in online environments is a great help to indexing efforts for those environments. For example, in an online store, a store browser might decide to leave a few tags on the item’s page when prompted. These tags make it easier for other browsers to find items relevant to their search.
However, tagging can become burdensome. Often, a multitude of tags are created for a single item, creating too many search variations for browsers to find related items easily or bring up unrelated search results. To reduce the confusion, Apple is developing a system where users can not only tag items but rate the tags that already exist. Rating tags changes an attribute setting that affects how the item comes up in searches for that specific tag. As claim 1 of the application describes, Apple is trying to patent:
“A method of managing online content, comprising: receiving a first tag for an item available in an online store, the first tag comprising first user feedback regarding the item and associated with a first tagging interaction; receiving an additional tag for the item, the additional tag comprising additional user feedback regarding the item and associated with an additional tagging interaction; identifying a relative degree of usefulness, with respect to the item, of the first tag and the additional tag with respect to each other; and determining an order to display first tag and the additional tag based on the relative degree of usefulness.”
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130021353
Graphical processing units (GPU) are responsible for many of the graphical rendering and display processes that a computer performs during regular activity. A GPU executes program instructions that include scaling images to a screen, calculating the number of pixels needed for a display and rendering animated media. When too many programs are operating at the same time, GPU resources may be affected causing a user to experience “down time” where they must wait for the GPU to finish a process.
Adding a virtual GPU (VGPU) can help in support. Although a VGPU often registers as independent hardware, Apple is looking to protect a system through which two VGPUs can be installed on the same processing unit. This would double the capacity of the entire GPU to process information; instead of experiencing excessive down time, the first VGPU could hand off instructions to the second VGPU and begin operating a new set of commands.
Claim 1 of this Apple patent application describes:
“An apparatus, comprising: a graphics processing unit (GPU) comprising a plurality of storage locations; wherein, for each one of a plurality of virtual GPUs implemented by the GPU, a corresponding one of the plurality of storage locations includes: first and second storage areas respectively configured to store intermediate results including intermediate vertex-processing results and intermediate pixel-processing results that correspond to that virtual GPU; wherein the intermediate results in the first and second storage areas are usable to resume execution of one or more incomplete vertex-processing operations and one or more incomplete pixel-processing operations for that virtual GPU.”
Apple also seeks a patent on what can best be described as a “smart shoe,” which will notify users of when their shoe is about to wear out. For more on this see Apple Applies for Smart Shoe Patent.