If for no other reason than to plan around their patent filings, it is impossible for me not to stop and look at the implications of the location-based services model Apple is envisioning for the iPhone Universe.
Brilliant vision. Very clear value proposition. And earnestly thought through (in my opinion).
Do yourself a favor. Dive deeper and check out the must-read article, ‘Apple filing places iPhone networks at restaurants, zoos, concerts,’ at AppleInsider.
Here is an excerpt:
The concept calls for a short-range wireless network that merchants or attraction organizers could install within their venues. Included in the network would be an "iPhone server" capable of interfacing and serving up customized information and applications to Apple media devices that come within range of the network.
The details of the patent filing lay out some clear application and service patterns. Here is one specific example from the filing (there are several):
"Various location-based content that may be provided in connection with a merchant that sells goods and articles of manufacture. For example, a user may access music (e.g., being freely broadcast by the establishment or for sale on content source), advertisements (e.g., coupon specials, video advertisements, and audio advertisements), event calendar (e.g., to learn of exciting new events that may be occurring at the merchant), virtual card information may be exchanged, podcast, general information on merchant (e.g., return policies), product information (e.g., graphics of products, reviews of products, etc.), or any other suitable information pertinent to the merchant."
Given that Apple has already worked through the logistics chain of pushing apps and media items to devices, including purchasing and transaction processing, there is little doubt that such context-rich services are well within reach of the platform.
At the same time, the breadth/depth of these filings also forces you/me to wonder what the end-goal is in carving out patent real estate in so many of the application spaces relevant to the iPhone Universe.
Is it a land grab and attempt to create (patent) toll roads throughout iPhone Universe or just protection against a would-be competitor outflanking Apple and establishing barriers against them and their developer ecosystem?
Perception has a way of becoming reality so let me state the obvious. It is incumbent upon Apple to be perceived as magic creators and marketplace enablers, and NOT land barons.
Let me suggest that one path to protecting all sides is to grant a fairly broad usage license to this patent portfolio to developers (and even competitors) subject to a reasonably crafted, bi-lateral Covenant Not To Sue (CNTS) clause.
Essentially, a CNTS allows Apple to do its thing and expand into segments that it views as strategic without having to worry about the ecosystem that it creates turning and suing it one day.
At the same time, it also lets developers do their thing without having to worry that Apple might one day turn predatory.
If the larger goal is to become ubiquitous and gain immutable brand ubiquity by winning the hearts and minds of consumers, developers and services providers, formally granting broad usage rights to its rapidly growing iPhone Universe patent portfolio is the consummate WIN-WIN.