A new patent application revealed this week shows future Apple plans for an online service that would allow users to sync multiple devices - such as Macs, iPhones, and Apple TVs - making not just files but also live application states portable and accessible wherever they go. The patent may give new clues to the purpose of the massive $1 billion data center Apple is building in North Carolina.
The filing with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, dated September 30, 2008, was revealed in a story on AppleInsider today. It describes a system that lets a user sync both personal files and live projects in their applications, so that one could literally pick up where one left off, moving from home computer to iPhone to work computer. The described system could share, for example, content like Safari bookmarks, iTunes content, Time Machine backups, Keynote presentations, or even video game file saves.
The application describes the intent of Apple's service as being to simplify the decision-making process of what to sync and how:
Though a user may have access to two similarly capable electronic devices, sharing data between the two devices may involve a number of steps, each of which may vary in difficulty. The process of transferring data between the devices may include many user decisions, such as which data to save, where the data is saved, which formats each device may be capable of processing, how to interconnect the devices for a most effective data transfer, etc. Such complexity may increase the difficulty or time spent transferring data between two electronic devices.
The patent is for the service itself and also for the software that would enable easy and intuitive access. The application describes an iPhone app called "Grab & Go." The app would have user-configurable preferences that would sort user application content and files by type, such as "family," "business," "entertainment," "gaming media," "education," "accounting," etc.
Earlier this year, Apple broke ground on what has been described as a "big-*** data center:” a 500,000 square-foot server farm in Malden, North Carolina. Observers have noted that this facility will be one of the largest data centers in the world, and presaged a major push by Apple into the "cloud computing" space.
It's clear that Apple's future direction is creating a fabric in which all a person's computing devices - computers, smartphones, netbooks/tablets - could be integrated seamlessly. Obviously, they intend that all these devices should have an Apple logo on them, but if this move is successful, it would be taking cloud computing to the next level by allowing everyday users to truly go location-independent.
image via AppleInsider