Apple granted patent for accessing digital media

Apple has been granted a patent by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for “accessing digital media.” It allows for movies, music, photos, and more to be shared across a network.

According to the patent — which was filed in 2012 —  a client requests media information from a server so the client can create a local representation of the server's database. The client is then able to manage the media information locally. When the client selects the desired media, it requests the selection from across the network. The server then delivers the selected media.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that the ability of computers to be able to share information is of “utmost importance in the information age.” Naturally, networks are the mechanism by which computers are able to communicate with one another. Generally, devices that provide resources are called servers and devices that utilize those resources are called clients. Depending upon the type of network, a device might be dedicated to one type of task or might act as both a client and a server, depending upon whether it is giving or requesting resources. 

Apple says that, increasingly, the types of resources that people want to share are entertainment-related. Specifically, music, movies, pictures, and print are all types of entertainment-related media that someone might want to access from across a network. For example, although a music library may reside on a family Mac in the den, the media owner may want to listen to the music in the living room. 

However, sharing media data can be a network-intensive process. Apple says that folks have devoted significant resources to both reducing the load on networks and increasing the capability of networks to handle large data transfers. Due to advances in compression technology and network bandwidth, the throughput of information through networks has increased dramatically over the years. Although the described technologies work well in many applications, Apple says “there are continuing efforts to further improve the ability to transfer digital media.”