Re: Solar Power
I can appreciate why some of these patents might not feel like fresh ideas. But as you alluded, they're noteworthy because they're from Apple. If there's one thing the company has done remarkably well, it's this: find the right moment and manner to bring previously-expressed ideas to market.
Some people like to argue that Apple gets too much praise for the iPad, for example, and that Microsoft actually invented tablet computers. There's a nugget of validity in this kind of argument, but it's also pretty myopic. If what Apple accomplished were so easy to dismiss, why hasn't someone else managed comparable success? Apple might not have produced the first tablet prototype, but it built the first one that people actually wanted to use. Based on this kind of batting average, there's a natural curiosity when Apple focuses attention around a specific technology. Without Steve Jobs, Apple still has to prove that its intuition for market shifts is intact, but when the company decides to take a stab where others have dabbled and failed, I pay attention.
Among these patents, I like the idea of a Smart Cover that extends the iPad's display. Pretty cool-- and I like that both Apple and Microsoft are thinking of tablet covers that do more than typing. Tablets welcome certain use cases, and we should be seeing more first-party accessories that push the envelope a bit.