The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has revealed a raft of new patent applications submitted by Apple's lawyers, covering new technologies for iPods, Web pages and mice.
Macsimum News spotted several patent applications that were filed months ago but just revealed this week on the PTO's Web site. The most intriguing example appears to involve a method for allowing an iPod or iPhone to talk to a neighboring device through a wireless network. The application assumes that mobile devices already are capable of downloading data from the Internet over cellular or Wi-Fi networks, "however, as portable electronic devices become more versatile and more interactive, it is advantageous to exchange (send and/or receive) media or other types of data with other electronic devices in a wireless manner."
This, of course, is exactly what Microsoft's Zune music player is capable of doing, exchanging songs with fellow Zune owners. Previous Apple patent filings have hinted at this type of capability, but it appears that momentum is building for a Wi-Fi iPod that can talk to other iPods. The iPhone comes with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but it doesn't appear possible for fellow iPhone owners to swap songs over a wireless network, at least yet.
The other filings include input technology that would allow designers to manipulate three-dimensional images with a two-dimensional input device, like a mouse. Apple also filed for a patent on ways for inexperienced Web designers to create fancy Web pages using tools generally confined to the pros. At the company's shareholder meeting earlier this year, CEO Steve Jobs promised improvements to the company's .Mac service, which has languished behind other projects like the iPhone and Leopard, and easier Web page creation could be part of that.
As always, bear in mind that patent applications do not necessarily turn into future products. They are designed to be written as broadly as possible to cover lots of possible implementations, and there are lots of ways to interpret what the technology in the applications might produce. Around this time last year, several patent filings were revealed that sort of point to iPhone-like technologies, but that also hint at products like wireless iPods that haven't arrived yet.