January 10, 2006 3:54 PM PST

iPod to get built-in iTrip?

Listening to an iPod over a car stereo may be easier in the future, judging by an invention Apple Computer is trying to patent.

Apple's patent application (No. 20050286481), which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office made public recently, describes "a method, apparatus, and system" that wirelessly plays iPod audio files over an FM radio receiver, such as a car radio.

The invention, described as a "method for data transmission utilizing a portable multimedia device," also taps an FM radio technology known as the Radio Data System (RDS) to wirelessly transmit data, such as artist and song title, to a receiver.

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Several gadget blogs have speculated that Apple will build the technology into future versions of the iPod, putting pressure on companies that sell iPod add-ons that deliver similar capabilities, such as the popular iTrip from Griffin Technologies.

"The end result will be that your stored iTunes on your iPod will not only play on these in-vehicle stereos, but also present corresponding data such as the artist's name, iTune(s) title and so forth on the RDS stereo's mini display," a blogger at Macsimum News wrote.

That blogger also noted that the technology may fit into Apple's plans to integrate iPods more seamlessly into cars. The company forged new alliances with Audi, Volkswagen and Honda on this front in September. Another dozen or so carmakers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, already offer iPod support as an optional feature.

Linking iPod with the radio seems to be a recent theme at Apple. At its annual Macworld convention on Tuesday, the company introduced the iPod Radio Remote. The device, a $49 add-on, lets users listen to FM radio over their iPod and view station and song information on their iPod screen.

But one blogger worried that the technology described in the patent application would be plagued by performance problems that have affected some iTrips and other third-party FM transmitters.

"My remaining concern is similar to the issues found in the iTrips (FM Modulators)," a blogger at Gadget Review wrote. "Often the radio broadcasts bleed into the FM modulators signal as they piggy backs on a frequency. In L.A., this is a constant problem due to the large number of stations."

Representatives from both Apple and Griffin Technologies declined to comment on the patent application.

According to the application, the proposed patent covers several kinds of audio formats and portable music players, including cell phones and portable digital assistants. But Apple clearly has the iPod in mind.

"It should be noted that the multimedia player can take the form (of) the iPod player coupled with an FM transmitter adapter to wirelessly transmit media data (i.e., songs, music, etc.) and its related information (e.g., song title, title artist, etc.)" the patent application states.

5 comments

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Patentable ??
Adding a feature (RDS) to someone else's invention (short-range FM broadcasting) is not a valid patent.

Apple may be doing this to limit others from doing the same - lawsuits are very expensive - but patentable ??
Posted by regulator1956 (577 comments )
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You can patent improvements
You can patent improvements of an already existing patent.

I'm not a lawyer... but I play one in a low traffic forum.
Posted by binaryspiral75 (27 comments )
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So what...?
FM modulation still makes already compressed music sound even worse. Lower fidelity, competition with local stations... blah.

However, tapping RDS functionality would be slightly cooler to have the info on my radio... hrmm - lets play wait and see.
Posted by binaryspiral75 (27 comments )
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What apple should be doing..
is to include FM radio functionality in the iPod. No, I am not happy
with the $49 external FM radio module. I know, they want to push
their podcasting downloads on iTunes music store, but in built FM
radio is much cooler. Besides, many companies already have
enough FM transmitter accessories.
Posted by indrakanti (90 comments )
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