Apple Patent Reveals IM Interface For iPhone - InformationWeek

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4/22/2008
12:55 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Apple Patent Reveals IM Interface For iPhone

Apple was recently granted a patent that shows an interesting new application that looks eerily similar to the iPhone's SMS feature. There are some big differences that set it apart, though. It includes new methods for interacting with ongoing conversations, including a word predictor. This could be the eagerly-hoped-for native instant messenger app.

Apple was recently granted a patent that shows an interesting new application that looks eerily similar to the iPhone's SMS feature. There are some big differences that set it apart, though. It includes new methods for interacting with ongoing conversations, including a word predictor. This could be the eagerly-hoped-for native instant messenger app.Apple first applied for this patent back in August 2007. It was just last month, however, that the U.S. Patent Office got around to giving it the good old stamp of approval. The patent describes a new instant messaging interface for touchscreen devices (you know, like the iPhone or iPod Touch) that lets you manipulate chat conversations in real time by editing old chats. It also lets you embed video and images, something the iPhone doesn't let you do. It's unclear whether this is just a revised SMS application that now supports MMS capabilities, or is a full-fledged new IM application.

At the SDK announcement in early March, Apple showed off an IM application on the iPhone, and it was none other than AOL's AIM program. Apple has, of course, been mum on exactly what features iPhone 2.0 will include. Since both IM and MMS applications were left off the original feature list, both are highly anticipated additions to the new iPhone's functionality.

Questions remain. Since Apple showed AOL's IM program during the SDK announcement, and not its own, does that mean it will support third-party IM apps only, and not provide a native version of iChat? Then there's operator revenue to consider. Depending on the operator and device, IMs are sent via the data connection, and not counted as individual SMS messages. I am sure AT&T (and other operators who end up carrying the iPhone) will not want to lose potential SMS revenue if users sidestep it by using IM programs.

Whatever this patent truly reveals is up for debate for the time being. Hopefully the keynote at June's WWDC will shed light on the truth.

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