updated 11:35 am EDT, Thu May 7, 2009
iTunes kiosks coming?
iPod and iPhone owners may eventually be able to fill up their players using dedicated iTunes kiosks, a recent patent application hints. A traditional problem with Apple handhelds has been the limited means of loading new media; even following the advent of the mobile iTunes Store, the main method of adding music and video remains syncing at home. Using a kiosk, Apple notes, people could rapidly load players without a conventional network connection, in places such as airports, malls or hotels, or even within trains and jets.
Apple's proposal involves a hybrid kiosk, which could provide both local and remote media hosting. The local server would supply the media mostly likely to be bought, such as new releases. Shoppers could thus simply swipe a credit card and immediately fill their handhelds. To gain access to the complete iTunes library, users could login with their account information and download files through a dedicated Internet connection.
A dilemma with most media kiosks, Apple remarks, is that they rely on physical device connectors, which can not only wear out but experience deliberate tampering. Creating a Wi-Fi hotspot is an option, but brings with it new problems such as hacking and user overloads. The patent filing instead suggests the idea of a "virtual physical connection," in which the kiosk would somehow detect the presence of a nearby device and only then open up a wireless link.
Beyond iPods and iPhones, the technology could theoretically be extended to support computers and tablets.