A new patent published earlier this week describes a system of partial local storage of music for cloud-based streaming for use with Apple (s aapl) devices. It could be a preview of what Apple’s cloud music service will look like when it launches, something rumored to be happening soon.
The patent, discovered by AppleInsider, describes a hybrid system whereby users can sync a portion of their music locally to their iOS device, with the remainder to be streamed remotely. The advantage would be that the device would have a sort of pre-loaded buffer of each song ready to go, so that playback would be instantaneous when users select a song, while in the background the bulk of the track is streamed from the cloud. It’s a smart approach, and one that bears some similarity to the system described behind HP’s (s hpq) planned music service for its upcoming TouchPad tablet.
Also included in the patent is the suggestion that users can either choose to stream from their own library on a home computer or remote server, or directly from a larger content source, which AppleInsider interprets as Apple’s iTunes music library. If Apple is successful in securing license agreements with music labels, that option could definitely be on the table.
It isn’t clear from the patent whether the partial syncing would be required for cloud music streaming, or just an option that users can enable or disable at their leisure. Certainly, it’s more appealing as an optional setting, since having it disabled would reduce the need to physically tether your iOS device to your computer for syncing.
There has been lots of talk about how Apple might be able to offer a more attractive cloud streaming option than its competitors Google (s goog) and Amazon(s amzn), but specific details about what perks it could introduce have been vague and speculative so far. This patent reveals some very specific advantages. Being able to choose from a variety of streaming sources and the ability to start playback instantly with no waiting, regardless of your data connection’s quality, are all noteworthy options not offered by either Amazon or Google.