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2/14/2008
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Apple Seeks Patent For 'Podmaps'

Apple put podcasts on the map with its iPod and iTunes combination. Now it wants to put maps in podcasts.

Having put podcasts on the map with its iPod and iTunes combination, Apple now wants to put maps in podcasts.

An Apple patent application published on Thursday describes "podmaps," a method for delivering maps and other media files that are associated with a podcast.

The patent application, "Creation, Management and Delivery of Map-based Media Items," envisions a variety of scenarios, such as taking map directions and converting them from text to speech, then serving the audio file of directions with a map as a podcast.

More broadly, the patent application proposes making podcasts more personalized, through "improved techniques to enable podcast users to have greater control over the content provided in or with podcasts. "Conventionally, the media content within podcasts are fixed when made available to subscribers," the patent application states. "In other words, a subscriber can choose to subscribe to a particular podcast from a plurality of established podcasts. However, a subscriber has no control over the content provided in or with podcasts. Unfortunately, however, a subscriber may desire a podcast that is somewhat different from the available podcasts. In many cases, a subscriber is not interested in the entire pre-established podcast but would prefer to modify the podcast in some manner. However, there is currently no way for a subscriber to alter the content within a podcast."

To solve this problem, Apple proposes "podmaps" or "mapcasts." Apple describes one possible form of its system thus: "[O]ne embodiment of the invention includes at least the acts of: receiving a request for a map-based media item pertaining to mapping a route from a start location to a destination location; obtaining map information based on a determined route from the start location to the destination location, the map information including text directions and at least one map image; causing the text directions to be converted into voice directions; and forming the map-based media item using at least the voice directions and the at least one map image."

Having recognized the popularity of Google Maps on its iPhone, Apple appears to be looking for a way to capitalize on users' affinity for geographic data through iTunes.

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