updated 07:20 pm EDT, Sun April 27, 2008
iControl for iPhone
Apple may be preparing to add iPhone (and iPod touch) functions to connect to and play media from nearby iTunes sources. Citing an "anonymous tipster," TUAW reports that code found in the latest firmware release points to a new iPhone application called iControl, which it says could be part of Apple's own plan to release new software applications based on forthcoming iPhone SDK. Based on strings found in the code of the latest private iPhone firmware beta, the application would allow users to connect to shared iTunes library running on a PC to playback songs or view videos. According to the report, the media navigator will allow users to view videos, play podcasts, listen to music and even support shuffle playback from the iTunes library. If true, iPhone and iPod touch users would not only be able to playback media from their device, but may also be able to actively control iTunes installed on a PC.
Users could potentially direct playback of iTunes to any of its sources, including local speakers or other wireless speakers (connected via AirPort Express).
Effectively turing the mobile device into a remote control, iControl may be the client application cited in a patent filing revealed in April of last year that mentions using a "mobile phone" to serve as a remote control for a PC and also another iPod wireless remote patent filing revealed last July.
While the former also covers the Cupertino-based company's own Front Row Remote, it leaves room for other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as a mobile phone, "to serve as a remote controller for a Macintosh computer," Apple wrote. "This solution requires installation of software on the mobile phone as well as the computer."
The latter patent, originally submitted in December 2005, would let a wireless portable media player synchronized with a server and tell that server to play files based on metadata such as the song name, album, or genre; the server in turn relays its sound to a stereo or a TV using either a wireless method such as the company's AirPort Express audio output feature or a direct, wired connection.
While the evidence of iControl was found in the latest firmware, it is unknown whether Apple will deliver, if at all, the iPhone application along with the new iPhone SDK and enhanced software expected in June.