Apple patents tech for using locally saved snippets with cloud media

May 19, 2011
Music

Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOG) are already running their cloud-based media streaming services, flying in the face of convention by not dealing with record labels directly to get their blessing on the technology. Apple (AAPL), on the other hand, is playing it safe and has reportedly signed a deal with record company EMI, with more […]

Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOG) are already running their cloud-based media streaming services, flying in the face of convention by not dealing with record labels directly to get their blessing on the technology.

Apple (AAPL), on the other hand, is playing it safe and has reportedly signed a deal with record company EMI, with more on the way, for its upcoming streaming service.

Coming from behind, it’s fair to speculate that Apple is looking for ways to one-up rivals Google and Amazon in creating a better music-streaming Internet service than those two companies have. With both Google and Amazon, users upload their music to an Internet server, and then are able to access that music through apps and web browsers to stream it down to other devices – smartphones, computers and tablets.

A new patent for Apple suggests a different, and potentially better, approach to using the cloud. According to a report from Apple Insider, Apple has patented cloud technology that relies on using a “snippet” of a song in a user’s iTunes library to work with the song file as stored in the cloud. Instead of storing a whole user’s library on a device like an iPhone or an iPod, only a small piece of each song – and therefore a whole lot less data – would be stored on the device, with the rest going out into the cloud to be recovered using Internet streaming.

The idea is that having the beginning portion of a song stored on a device gives Apple’s streaming technology time to do its work without having a delay in playback. Users can click any song in their library that they want to stream and it starts to play immediately, because what’s playing at first is actually stored locally like any other song file. Meanwhile, as the song plays, iTunes is working to stream down the rest of the song.

READ  Trending - Did Google Copy Twitter?

This also means that users can listen to half a song, get bored and click a different track and have that one start immediately, too – instead of having to wait for the streaming service to catch up with the choice, as is the case with something like Amazon’s Cloud Player. With the whole track stored on the cloud, changing songs quickly means waiting for the data to stream down from the Internet again, and a large amount of data has to be cached on the device before actual playback can start up. Since Apple’s playing you a piece of the song you have on your device’s hard drive, it has a buffer period during which the streaming can happen unbeknownst to the user.

The drawback to Apple’s method is that while it makes playback better, it’s not as significant a reduction in storage necessity as Amazon and Google users might enjoy. Locally storing a snippet of a song is still less data-intensive than storing the entire song, but that’s still music data stored on your hard drive, and it still takes up space. Instead of having a fully cloud-based service and thereby not needing to use hard drive space almost at all, as Google and Amazon do, Apple requires users to save some music space on their hard drives.

Apple’s patent doesn’t nail down exactly where the content is coming from, leaving that open for the company to define later. We’ve heard that Apple might pull its tracks not from a user-controlled data storage locker, the way Amazon does, but might take a Streamedy approach, allowing users to copy their songs to a giant database and then stream anything they own from that one big source.

Search for more

Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

    Home Apps Games