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Published on February 5th, 2019 | by Brad Gibson

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Apple files new Apple TV interface patent with clues to its future on-demand service

Apple filed Tuesday a U.S. patent conceptualizing a new design of a streaming media interface on Apple TV, similar in many ways to designs currently in use by competing streaming services like Netflix, Hulu With Live TV, Fubo TV, and YouTube TV.

The concept and its drawings – titled ‘TV sidebar user interface,’ – suggests Apple is designing a new Apple TV app that would merge content from various third-party subscription apps into one portal instead of consumers having to move or exit to another interface to watch say HBO Go, Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, as examples.

While the filings name gives the impression it concentrates solely on the design of a left-hand column selection bar, the entire patent document details a clear indication of Apple’s plans for a “media content delivery service” bundling content of not only its own, but others under one app. Not only that, it hints of how Apple plans to share content of others in the same household, as well as friends.

The concept includes a “data store for storing and serving video content to subscribers” that the patent said, “may comprise one or more data stores, distributed storage, peer-to-peer based storage, cloud-based storage or otherwise.”

Apple said in the filing that its challenge is to find an easier to peruse content from a variety of providers that “complicates the viewing experience.” The result is an electronic ‘TV-Guide-like” experience showing aggregated content from various sources. 

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Apple patent design of an on-screen ‘channel guide’

The ‘Channel Guide’ would include a horizontal, schedule-based program guide  – somewhat like a channel listings page on a cable or satellite system – showing live program listings by time and day. To the left would be a pop-out listing of other pages including Favorites, the Channel Guide, Friends, Recently Watched, Genius, and Siri options. 

If a program is not subscribed to, the drawing describes an option to ‘subscribe’, which would then allow the user to sign up for that content. A subscription page design  – using HBO as an example – shows how a user would be presented with additional information about the service with a ‘subscribe’ button to finish purchasing it.

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Apple patent prototype of an on-screen subscription page

A ‘Friends’ section provides some interesting detail on Apple’s apparent plans to allow sharing of content from people using the same Apple TV or possibly even users located elsewhere geographically. The ‘Friends’ interface brings up a list of the user’s details who are willing to share what they subscribe to or what they have recently been watching. Another section shows content that a user’s friends are watching at that moment.

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A proposed ‘Friends’ section would show content of friends and family, even if remotely not in the home.

A ‘My Stuff’ menu concept shows a sidebar dividing various categories including My Stuff – divided into genres – as well as TV Shows, Movies, Apps, Search, and Settings. 

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Apple patent prototype of a ‘My Stuff’ page listings featured and ‘My’ content

Much like Netflix and Prime Video that offer additional programming details with the flick of an Apple remote while viewing a selected program, the patent includes the design of a program information bar. The bar includes a status of where a viewer is in the program, along with details of the next program to air and network identification.

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Apple patent design of pop-up details for programming being currently viewed.

The patent gives further evidence of a major redesign to how Apple currently offers content from third-parties through its TV app. 

With little detail, Apple CEO Tim Cook did acknowledge the company’s commitment to designing its own subscription streaming service during a conference call for its most recent quarterly results. “We will participate in the original content world,” he said.

The patent filing is one of the first major indications of Apple’s detailed plans for a streaming media service that combines content from various providers and how a version 2.0 of its service conceptually could look in the future to users on Apple TV.

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About the Author

Brad is co-founder and editor-in-chief of BESTAppleTV.com. He has been a technology reporter since the late 1980s having previously worked for MacUser, MacFormat, and iCreate magazines, as well as MacNN.com, MacObserver.com, MacCentral.com, MacMinute.com, and Macworld.com. He hosted and produced the MacFormat This Week podcast for three years. He was also a reporter, editor, and producer for the Associated Press and United Press International.



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