Apple patent hints at major interface changes for OS X, iOS, tvOS

Apple has applied for a patent (number 20150370425) with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for an “application menu for a video system.” Should it ever come to fruition, it could mean a radically revamped interface for OS X and iOS, as well asthe Apple TV’s tvOS. Interestingly, the patent mentions a television with a touch-sensitive surface (either a touch screen display or a touch pad).

The patent specifically mentions an app menu for a video system that supports a drawing application, a presentation application, a word processing application, a website creation application, a disk authoring application, a spreadsheet application, a gaming application, a telephone application, a video conferencing application, an e-mail application, an instant messaging application, a workout support application, a photo management application, a digital camera application, a digital video camera application, a web browsing application, a digital music player application, a television channel browsing application, and/or a digital video player application. 

In the patent filing, Apple says there’s a need to provide a fast way to organize applications of an electronic device in an intuitive manner. The invention is designed to provide “an intuitive way to automatically group icons associated with applications of an electronic device based on metadata associated with the applications.” What’s more, Apple says there’s a need to provide an intuitive interface for switching between content applications in an intuitive manner.

Of course, many application menu user interfaces overlay on visual content. Apple’s goal is to provide an intuitive interface overlaid on visual content that obscures a minimal portion of the visual content. Also, many user interfaces animate based on different inputs. Apple says there’s a need to provide an intuitive interface that begins such animations before input is complete. The company’s invention would “provide an intuitive interface that seems to anticipate user intention before input is complete by beginning an animation portion that is common to two or more user interface responses.”

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “The invention is directed to an electronic device. The electronic device generates for presentation on a display a user interface including a plurality of groups of icons. A plurality of the icons have been grouped based at least in part on metadata of applications associated with the icons. The electronic device receives input selecting a respective icon. In response to receiving the input selecting a respective icon, the electronic device invokes an instance of an application associated with the respective icon.”