The new software would load only meta data about songs, videos, and other media onto a handheld device. It would then allow users to stream this media from their desktop computers on demand and even let them organize their iTunes libraries remotely (by adding, deleting, and moving files around). The main benefits come from saving space on your handheld device, where disk storage is scarce, as well as saving the time it takes to synchronize.
There’s been no official word from Apple on when or whether it plans to release this technology (it files patents all the time that go nowhere). But such a development could be seen as one step towards a streaming music service like Rhapsody or Napster, which have operated in stark contrast to Apple’s download model. However, the patent does not suggest that Apple plans to stream data from its own servers – just consumers’ own desktop computers, where they keep the music they have downloaded.
Apple could also be understood to be taking on at least one facet of Microsoft Mesh, which promises to make consumers’ personal files available to them on whichever device they use. Of course, MobileMe already goes to show that Apple has data synchronization on its mind – but perhaps there’s a broader trend here as well.