The Satellite iPod Returns (Apple Patent)

Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 3:02 PM
Tags: 2, XM

Satellite iPod?Perhaps this explains yesterday's rumor - today Apple filed for a patent application (PDF) for a method of saving media from various sources for later purchase. It's an ingenious method of grabbing snippets of audio, identifying the song and allowing the user the option to purchase that song.

This patent is to date the most solid information yet that Apple actually might be considering integration with satellite radio. This is not an exclusive relationship with satrad, but rather a method for Apple to get around the "discovery" roadblock that is inherently wrong with the iPod.

Satellite iPod? 

With this technology, the user can tune "into a wireless signal (e.g., AM FM radio, digital radio, or WiFi)" using either a wireless card or "the capability to accept accessories to add the necessary functionality." This makes sense - in my opinion the only way Apple will have satellite radio integration would be through an accessories, and not built-in to the iPod. SDARS capability would add too much bulk for Apple to ever consider it to be acceptable.

Still, the relationship with satellite radio is vague... at this point. As we read the patent application further though, it begins to clear up as Apple specifically states that the wireless signal could be "AM/FM radio, satellite radio, WiFi."

And further on, Apple discusses vehicle integration, and actually names XM as a possible source - this is the interesting part folks:

Satellite iPod?"The in-vehicle receiver-player 708 also couples to the in-vehicle network 710. In addition, the portable media device 702 can couple to the in-vehicle network 710. As a result, the portable media device 702 can communicate with the in-vehicle receiver-player 708 via the in-vehicle network 710. In one embodiment, the in-vehicle network 710 has a connection port that is able to receive the portable media device 702 either directly or indirectly via a cable. As an example, the portable media player can be a digital media player.

[0077] When the portable media device 702 is connected to the in-vehicle network 710, the portable media device 702 has access to media information that is descriptive the media being played by the vehicle media system 704. For example, if the in-vehicle receiver-player 708 is playing audio content that is received from a radio frequency broadcast (e.g., AM, FM or XM), the portable media device 702 is able to determine descriptive media information associated with the audio content being played. The descriptive media information can vary with implementation or situation. In one implementation or situation, the descriptive media information includes a title, artist and/or album name for the audio content."

It's the in-vehicle integration where satellite radio has a strong point. Apple needs better vehicle integration, and they need a seamless method for the iPod to "discover" music while in the car. Satellite radio provides a method of not only supplying the actual audio for the iPod to "consume" - but also the associated metadata is already encoded in - making it easier to identify the song and give a purchase option.

Now that's interesting.

[Patent Application #20060235864 via Satellite Radio TechWorld]



So how does this differ from the "bookmarking" that the Pioneer Inno has with XM and Napster?

This makes sense - in my opinion the only way Apple will have satellite radio integration would be through an accessories, and not built-in to the iPod. SDARS capability would add too much bulk for Apple to ever consider it to be acceptable.


Thank you for including this paragraph in your post Ryan. You and I seem to be the only one's who realize that a combo can't exist at this time. And Apple doesn't need SDARS....AT ALL!

I love SDARS, but iPod sales crush SDARS to oblivion.

To clarify my earlier post, I have read this through a second time, and see integration into the iPod itself isn't necessary. This is very ingenious of Apple. A non-exclusive deal with SDARS and yet have customers buy the tunes they hear on SDARS from iTunes music store. Ingenious indeed!

Good post Ryan!

How hard would it be to make an XM Mini-tuner connector that plugs into the bottom of an IPod?

I'd guess the answer is "not very".

The $64,000 question is, though, do they MEAN XM, or was this just written by one of those knuckleheads who thinks that all satellite radio is XM (ala FM and AM).

Too bad they partnering with XM...who has all kinds of FCC issues. Sirius would be a much better choice...and they're already setting up the wifi option...their newest protable option will use wifi.

Easy people. Apple has a history of patenting many ideas that never materialize.

Im sure that the XM listed is in fact just used as an example since AM, FM, XM sounds better in that context. I would not be surpised if they ever did integrate if they made it both sirius and XM compatable as not to lose out on millions of potential customers.

As for that wifi comment, Apple is staying away from wifi as of now and Steve Jobs' recent comments on the Zune player dont make it sound like they will be trying anything in that realm for a while to come.

Funny. Remember batshit crazy Tim Bucher, who's sueing Apple for laying him off?


Same idea

If anyone actually read the patent, it would be clear that this is a device to take samples from am/fm sources and find them online later to buy. 99% of the patent is about this process, and in one line it mentions XM as a possible source. If it actually was coupling with XM, this patent would be irrelevant because the XM metadata would take care of it, rendering the entire patent irrelevant.

God knows XM needs and XM-ipod. but this ain't it.

This once again proves that software shouldn't be patentable (and I'm a patent attorney). Probably over 15 years ago I sent this idea to Philips (I'm Dutch and Philips is Dutch company; I dislike them for their excessive lobbying for software patents now, so don't buy their products). And that was when I didn't know that any song that is aired is tagged, so royalties can go to the artists. Forget that, can go to the record company. In other words, all that would need to be done is read the tag.


Knowing Apple, it would be able to take AM, FM or even XM/Sirius net streams and let you choose the songs to purchase from iTunes. I can't see Apple painting itself into the XM or Sirius corner alone.

"The $64,000 question is, though, do they MEAN XM, or was this just written by one of those knuckleheads who thinks that all satellite radio is XM (ala FM and AM)."

If they didn't mean XM then it's proof that "Beyond AM. Beyond FM. XM." slogan worked.

It's really immaterial though, they just provide examples of sources for music, no one is claiming that the list is exhaustive.

Check this out folks:

Looks like XM and Apple may have a partnership.

From this article:

Apple may also have a deal with XM Satellite in the works. The filing makes reference to documents covering MacXM, a program that allows Mac OS X to control an XM Satellite Radio device.

I think Ive seen something on this filing, said an XM representative who declined to comment further.

You totally totally missed the whole point. This technology couldn't possibly sample a song and decipher which one to buy online.

It's an audio barcode. The audio source conrtains an encoded digital "asset tag," either it's subsonic and inaudible to human ears, or maybe it's a little tone that plays after the tune or on demand when you poke a button.
The references in the patent about checking for an "adequate audio sample" most likely refers to the portable device checking if the audio "barcode" was received. What, do you think they can put sufficient computer power in a little iPod to record and analyze an audio clip and identify it out of a database of every song ever recorded?

"SDARS capability would add too much bulk for Apple to ever consider it to be acceptable."

Did you forget about the passport tuner? That's too much bulk?

Apple and XM....that could be devastating for Sirius. Then again it could triger something even bigger, like a joint venture with Sirius and Microsoft integrating SAT into the Zune. Maybe that would screw apple maybe it wont, but it would definately even the playing field.

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