The real story on Microsoft’s ‘Apple iPod’ playlist patent

“Microsoft is close to patenting a technology that, for all intents and purposes, makes a Tivo out of your digital media player,” Lisa DiCarlo reports for Forbes. “The technology can create autogenerated playlists of various types of media based on usage patterns, with no intervention from the user. So if 1970s funk music is your thing, a portable MP3 player would generate such playlists on your behalf.”

“The patent has been the focus on media reports this week that suggest a connection between a digital media patent filed months later by Apple Computer,” DiCarlo reports. “The reports suggest that some component of the iPod interface may be infringing on Microsoft’s patent, and that Apple may be forced to pay royalties to Microsoft on millions of iPod units sold. In truth, the patents in question might not even be directly related.”

DiCarlo reports, “Microsoft’s patent has been winding its way through the system and is expected to be approved by year’s end. A Microsoft spokesperson couldn’t say whether the technology has yet worked its way into any Microsoft products. Presumably, these would be music, spoken word or even video that use the Windows Media Player.”

Full article here.

Related articles:
Patent lawyer: Microsoft and Apple iPod patent saga is much ado about nothing – August 12, 2005
Microsoft beats Apple in iPod patent race? – August 11, 2005
Microsoft researcher involved in rejected Apple iPod patent – August 10, 2005
Apple’s patent application for Pod’s menu-based software interface rejected – August 09, 2005


  1. I recently watched the demo of a BOSE speaker system which has a central system that stores 360 hours of music and it does exactly the same. if you play one kind of music and select its “Encore” system, then it automatically selects similar music from the playlist. It even remembers if you skip a song.. and creates a playlist accordingly.

  2. IT Guy, that’s Microsoft’s new business model. They appear to have given up on growing the businesses associated with their OS monopoly or their Office Software monopoly, so they are moving into the patent licensing business. Over the past few years they have been filing patents at an astonishing rate. The impression I get is that most of them are, if not utterly frivolous, just derivatives of somebody else’s inventions, applied differently. I don’t know whether or not this strategy will make piles of money for Microsoft, but it will definitely complicate the business of writing software for everybody else, who will have to wade through stacks of tens of thousands of incomprehensible patents before writing any new feature, no matter how obvious or trivial. I find it disheartening, but not surprising.

    MDN Magic Word is “moral.” You be the judge.

  3. This is silly. We were actually enjoying a recent patent application from Microsoft where they wanted to patent the practice of putting an OUTLINE BOX around text to emphasize the importance of the enclosed information. This is such an abuse of the patent system. Whats next? getting a patent on the SEMI COLON!? C’mon Gates, be creative.

    Andrew Hamilton
    Las Vegas Cinematographer

  4. That’s just a Smart Playlist. I’d be interested to see how the timing plays out. Was the patent filed before Smart Playlists were introduced or after. If after…that’s your prior art and the MS patent has no standing. Just thinking out loud.

  5. So I just drove to Colorado and back.

    Day 1: My 80s Collection
    Day 2: My James Brown, dance, & celtic Collections
    Day 3: My Beatles Collection

    Day 1: Random from everything
    Day 2: My R&B/soul collection
    Day 3: My country Collection

    MDN Magic Word: “decided” as in f— any piece of software that saw I listened to Country yesterday and thus decides that’s what I want to hear today

  6. I luv it!

    The technology can create autogenerated playlists of various types of media based on usage patterns, with no intervention from the user. So if 1970s funk music is your thing, a portable MP3 player would generate such playlists on your behalf.

    Yep, and with M$’s implementation, it’ll play everything that you don’t want to hear then before it eventually burps a “File Not Found” message and quits.

  7. There was an article (here? or on slashdot) about a guy who scripted something like this himself.

    Basically, it always maintains a playlist of your favorite N songs, based on their rating. The ratings are auto-controlled by how you use the songs. Something along these lines:

    A new song starts at 3.
    Hitting “next” in the first 30 seconds of the track subtracts 2.
    Hitting “next” after the first 30 seconds of the track subtracts 1.
    Listening to a song all the way through has no impact.
    Listening to a song all the way through twice in 30 minutes adds 1.
    Listening to a song all thr way through 3-5 times in 48 hours adds 2.

    And so forth. So it works out which songs you like to hear, not by genre or artist, but by individual track based on how you behave when they play. Then it maintains a favorites playlist that contains the top 30% of tracks in your library, by this rating system.

    A fine idea. More useful than Tivo’s methods.

  8. Lets see, Microsoft copies Apple with the GUI and this is ok.
    Now, Apple comes out with a GUI for the iPod before its patented by Microsoft and now Apple may have to pay Microsoft royalties?

    Anybody see something fishy here?

    – Mark

  9. So it now seems that Mi¢ro$oft has been awarded some patents for the Apple iPod, which MS had NOTHING to do with, (as evidenced by the fact that MS filed their patent six months after Apple began making and selling them), and big technology corporations around the world, (namely, M$), are surprised that most people seem to have no respect for copyright laws?

    Go figure. :\

    MW = “decision”, as in, can’t they make up their damn minds? they can’t have it both ways.

  10. Yep, someone hired a bunch of crack heads at the U.S. Patent Office.

    Back in the day the likes of Albert Einstein used to work at patent offices now their all crack heads.

    Ah, rock on Steve!

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