The "real deal" on Microsoft's 20030221541?
At one point in the Forbes.com article, the Platt application is referred to as a "patent," but later the article states "is expected to be approved by year's end."
Neither statement is correct.
The USPTO rejected the Apple patent application as anticipated under 35 USC 102(e) over the Microsoft Platt application. In this, all disclosure in the Platt application is available for consideration. The issue is not limited to what Microsoft might, or might not, contemplate to commercialize.
from Lisa DiCarlo, Forbes.com via vnunet.com:
In truth, the patents [i.e., the patent applications of Apple and Microsoft] in question might not even be directly related.
"Some people say patents are overlapping, and I'm not sure that's accurate," says Kaefer. "The characterization of the patent is not spot on."
Indeed, news articles suggested that Microsoft's patent surrounds the iconic iPod clickwheel. But its patent has to do more with the organization and delivery of digital media items.
Microsoft's patent has been winding its way through the system and is expected to be approved by year's end. [Note: the Platt application received a notice of allowance in June 2005, and will issue well before the end of 2005] 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.
The Forbes article also notes:
Microsoft is close to patenting a technology that, for all intents and purposes, makes a Tivo out of your digital media player.
The technology in question, patent application number 20030221541, was filed in May of 2002 and "relates generally to systems and methodologies that facilitate generation of playlists," according to a summary of the invention patent. "It reduces effort and time required to generate a playlist that meets or is similar to desired characteristics or features by automatically generating a playlist."
In other words, 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.