Skip to main content

Kiosk Patent: Download iTunes Content Anywhere

Apple filed a patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office, describing a special media distribution kiosk using a "virtual connector for interfacing with a personal media device." The 19-page patent was actually discovered by AppleInsider this week, and begins by describing many of the common problems with current media distribution kiosks. As it stands now, consumers must pair their media devices--whether it's an iPhone, MP3 player or laptop--with the kiosk via a physical connection. Over time the continuous "engagement and disengagement" takes a toll on hardware, thus leading to the connector's eventual failure.

Apple's proposed media Kiosk takes a different route by determining the physical presence of the device in its proximity without a hardware connection. After discovery, the kiosk would thus establish a wireless data channel with the end-user device. The company said that the traditional WiFi connection isn't reliable because the system can overload when too many devices try to connect. Open WiFi also has the potential for hackers to eavesdrop and invade the kiosk and media devices.

According to the patent, the kiosk itself would tie into a local distribution server containing the latest movies, television shows, and music albums. If consumers wanted to shop for something older, the distribution server would connect to the iTunes Store, offering the service's entire collection of multimedia. To access iTunes, end-users would simply enter their user name and password via a mounted keyboard on the kiosk. Or, if consumers desired to purchase newer media on the local server, consumers would simply swipe the credit card to make a purchase.

Of course, the purpose of this system would be to provide content for consumers on the go. A family taking a trip could stop by the local mall and load up the laptop with movies and television programs. As many consumers have quickly discovered, downloading large movies and other files via a cellular data network access can be costly, even devastating. The good news is that Apple has chosen not to lock the design to just Apple products, but expects many different devices and brands to have access to the media. Additionally, the kiosks would provide content for consumers who don't have access to the Internet.

"The media distribution system advantageously enables the distribution of media content to a media device via a [media distribution kiosk] residing in virtually any location such as an airport, hotel, stadium, train station, shopping mall, stores, planes, ships, public transportation vehicles, and the like," the company wrote in the filing. "Even a wireless media device may have limited or no access to a particular wireless service provider's data network in certain geographic areas or locations. Thus, a [media distribution kiosk] may enable the media device to access the media distribution system even where a wireless service provider's network is not available."

The new kiosk patent does have potential; the proposed connection even seems similar to Bluetooth, requiring a "pairing" of sorts in a close approximation to the kiosk. While it makes sense that Apple would provide a local media server for newer content, it will be interesting to see if the process will work in a timely manner while browsing through iTunes. Will it be possible to see these kiosks planted net to the Red Box machines outside gas stations? It's possible, although standing in front of the kiosk during the early morning hours--with a laptop open and connected--would probably not be an ideal situation.