Apple patents OTA iTunes downloads for iPhone

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent filed by Apple that appears to be for over the air (OTA) downloads of iTunes songs for the iPhone. The patent looks like it was written before the iPhone launch so the general terms used make it hard to pin down, but one key line: "The computing device 102 may be a mobile telephone that is configured to also operate as a portable media player. The user may interact with the portable media player application, which then wirelessly (e.g., via a cellular or other wireless connection) interacts with the service." Here's the crucial diagram from the patent application:

Pic of patent--right click to turn on images

When the iPhone launched earlier this month a big point of contention was the lack of OTA downloads of music tracks--many saw that missing feature as a big loss for Apple's carrier partner, Cingular (now AT&T). Cingular would capitalize on a sudden surge in usage of its data service if the iPhone proves to be as popular as its cousin, the iPod. There's a good chance, of course, this patent is merely a protocol for Apple, which, like most big players in the tech industry, file boatloads of patents each month. Something has to keep all those Apple rumor sites going, right?

For more on Apple's OTA patent:
- see this report from MacNN