updated 08:30 pm EST, Thu January 19, 2012
Another patent may hint at a quiet acquisition
Apple has been awarded a patent for its implementation of Siri, crediting original Siri inventor Thomas Gruber and others with the technology, which covers both its original format and its current Apple-enhanced incarnation. The company was also granted two patents related to battery technology, including a certification on non-rectangular battery shapes that may herald future devices. There's also a hint that Apple has quietly bought another company.
The patent on Siri goes into great detail (the application is around 100 pages long) about how the technology works and potential areas of growth once the service leaves beta. The filing reveals that Siri could eventually leverage more sources for information, and even handle e-commerce transactions. Travel planning, traffic alerts, non-retail business or institutional locations along with better integration between Siri and already-present services (such as stock-checking or meeting planning) and other abilities may soon be integrated into Siri.
The two battery patents, however, may be the most interesting in the foreseeable future. Apple's first patent dealing with battery technology covers the concept of layered, non-rectangular battery packs, and the second with the concept of cells having different capacities. In combination, the technology could give designers much more flexibility in product shapes, freeing them from the necessity of keeping the battery area rectangular and flat in nature.
The inventions could foreshadow future devices that can be thinner -- one example listed in the patent details the concept of creating a battery that fits around the bezel of an iPad-like device rather than as part of the logic board. A battery that could be be rounded to any angle could, for example, be fitted to use available space as efficiently as possible -- a major limitation of most battery design currently, as Apple pointed out in a 2009 video demonstrating the battery technology used in the 17-inch MacBook Pro.
Other patents among the 11 awarded today covered the increased sharpness of the iPhone 4S' camera, solar-power technology that might be incorporated into future notebooks, and a patent acquired from CVON Innovations that relates to web browsing and web ads, presumably on behalf of iAd. The London-based company does not appear to have a web presence beyond a placeholder web page, which could suggest that Apple has quietly bought the company outright rather than just purchased rights to the one patent.