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Wireless (Apple) Businesses Patents Apple Hardware

Apple Patents 'Buy Stuff Wirelessly, Skip Lines' Tech 254

An anonymous reader writes "Apple is looking to patent a process that will save customers the hassle of waiting to order a cup of coffee at a local Starbucks. Even better: The technology would let you jump the line of those ordering in person. 'Customers might tap a button to order their favorite drink, say a double-shot mocha, as they stroll up to the nearest coffee shop. When the drink is ready go to, the device--such as an iPhone--would chime or blink to let the thirsty one know it's time to scoop up the order at the counter. The patent puts Apple's partnership with Starbucks in a new light. The technology promises to morph Apple from the business of simply selling gadgets and music and movies that can be played on those devices into an intermediary in all kinds of exchanges.'"
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Apple Patents 'Buy Stuff Wirelessly, Skip Lines' Tech

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  • Obvious patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WillRobinson ( 159226 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @05:38PM (#21833768) Journal
    I think this is an obvious patent. Wish I would have decided to be a lawyer instead of a technical person. My retirement would be much better.
  • Obvious? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <> on Thursday December 27, 2007 @05:39PM (#21833780) Homepage Journal
    I mean honestly, how different is this to dialing ahead with your order from a cell phone? That uses wireless technology to skip queues & waiting too.

    Well done Apple - patent innovation the Microsoft/Amazon way!
  • Fandango... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @05:44PM (#21833834)
    Hmmm I go to their website, buy a ticket. Then when I get to the movie theater I go to the "Fandango Only" line, bypassing the other people, get my tickets and go in.

  • Yuck (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jimmy_dean ( 463322 ) <james DOT hodapp AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 27, 2007 @05:46PM (#21833864) Homepage
    I love Apple and their products (I have 2 Macs and an iPod), but this is ridiculous. I can't believe the patent system allows this. Who are these people in charge of granting patents who get suckered into thinking this is a unique, tangible product? Patents are for recuperating costs (among other uses), where are Apple's costs in developing this idea?
  • Re:Obvious? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xRelisH ( 647464 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @05:51PM (#21833920)
    mean honestly, how different is this to dialing ahead with your order from a cell phone?

    Umm, I have a few:
    1. I'd rather order through a readable UI with touch screen than having to repeat myself several times over the phone due to poor signal or noise where I am. I always order pizza from my computer, ordering through similar means on something mobile would be more convenient.
    2. The store would need to hire someone on the phone to take the order. Having a person actually there helps when ordering in person for ambiance, but when you're ordering over the phone, it's annoying... and don't get me started with those voice activated systems. I'd rather be able to select what I want through a digital menu.
    3. If this system is tied into a billing system like how .Mac is, then this saves me another hassle of having to say my credit card information over the phone or have to whip it out and slide at the counter.
  • Re:Unbelievable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ajs ( 35943 ) <> on Thursday December 27, 2007 @05:52PM (#21833936) Homepage Journal
    Repeat after me: any patent which is summarized by a reporter relates in no way to the actual patent. Unless you've read the entire patent or at least ALL of the claims, you have no idea what the patent is about. Typically I can find at least 3 ways to summarize even really good and innovative patents that would make people pick up their pitchforks and torches. It's just too easy to do, and it turns out that it gets Slashdot some extra readership. :-/

  • Re:Obvious? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by provigilman ( 1044114 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @05:56PM (#21833990) Homepage Journal
    Exactly, this is quite different from the old "Pick up the phone and call in for a pizza." You're talking a completely encapsulated ordering interface, WiFi connection, order queue interrupt (to bump yours into the queue for those barristas to make) and a billing system. It's like saying that a cell phone is obvious tech because you had a landline for years.

    The major question that this article doesn't answer though, is will there be a virtual tip jar???

  • Re:Obvious patents (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2007 @05:59PM (#21834030)
    You are, every time you place an order via a web-based client from a mobile device. I did so a few weeks ago from my local Papa John's. Hell, calling in a take-out order from the restaurant of your choice would probably qualify as prior art.

    Replacing a human component with a piece of software shouldn't be considered novel enough to patent.
  • Re:Obvious patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vimh42 ( 981236 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @06:12PM (#21834204)
    Forget about the patent being obvious. If I'm standing in line, and some idiot comes into the store and gets their drink first because they ordered it with their iPhone, do you think I'm going to have anything nice to say when I have a little chat with the manager about customer service? Don't you think that type of problem is a little obvious?
  • Re:Obvious? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @06:17PM (#21834258)

    I mean honestly, how different is this to dialing ahead with your order from a cell phone? That uses wireless technology to skip queues & waiting too.

    Its not much different in outline, its different only in the mechanics of implementation. Of course, patents don't cover outlines, they cover mechanics of implementation, so noticing that this is similar but in the mechanics of implementation is not really a good argument against patentability. The broad outline is fairly obvious, but without reading the actual patent (rather than a popular media report that provides no useful information) I don't have much opinion on whether the specific claims and method patented is obvious.

    I would guess that its either so obvious that it should be unpatentable or, if its non-obvious, there are so many ways to implement the same user experience as to make the patent mostly useless except for defensive purposes. But which one of those, I can't guess.
  • Jumped the Shark (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @06:18PM (#21834266)

    1995 called...and wanted to remind Apple what happened the last time they got away from their core business of making computers and operating system software.

    It's a common downfall. Corporation X makes money doing something well, but either gets greedy, or starts to saturate the market...and looks elsewhere for revenue. Corporation X starts to spread to thin, outside its 'comfort zone', and abuses the trust consumers placed in the brand name. The brand name devalues. Company X finds itself competing against an upstart that is focused, and because its brand name has devalued, its high-margin items aren't selling.

    If you want to see a great example of this, look at Nintendo: despite the might of Microsoft, the Xbox 360 isn't what people are desperate to get their hands on, and the Wii isn't having problems with its online service. Nintendo is making money hand over fist on the Wii, and Microsoft just lost almost TWO BILLION DOLLARS on the Xbox division. [] Meanwhile, Vista is an absolute disaster, and the world is gunning for Office.

    I look at Apple and see warning signs too. Leopard's release *stunk*. There were the simplest bugs; they still haven't fixed an issue that causes the hard drive controller to lock up, and it took weeks for the fix to the "everything gets deleted if a file move to another volume fails" bug. The finder navigation related to file server volumes absolutely SUCKS, and frankly- the rest of the hundred-plus features are nothing but glitz, or grossly overdue (like workgroup calendaring.) About the only thing that was improved was Spotlight...

  • Re:Obvious patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @06:19PM (#21834276) Homepage Journal
    What is the problem?
    I do this all the time. My local grocery store deli takes phone orders. I often call them when I am in the store and place my order. They have a line for phone orders. I often see a huge line and I just call in my order, finish the rest of my shopping and pick up my sub.
    I also have a few restaurants in my cell phone that I go to often. They allow you to call ahead to reserve your place in line. I call when I leave my house and often I have no wait for a table.
    I thought using technology was a good thing.
  • Re:Unbelievable (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2007 @06:20PM (#21834284)
    I do one better. I order my pizza online, and get alerted by a ding-dong sound in my house when the pizza is ready. Then I just walk up to the door and take my pizza. I even connect to the internet wirelessly to do make the order. I don't use an iPhone and the pizza place isn't a Starbucks though, so I can see how its totally different.
  • Re:Prior art? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zullnero ( 833754 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @06:27PM (#21834360) Homepage
    There's more prior art than that. A whole freaking lot more. I've personally interviewed and worked with several companies that have practically patented almost the exact same concept. Using a mobile device to buy stuff wirelessly is a concept that has been around for many years. There are patents all over the place in regards to this idea, and the biggest problem is actually implementing something without tripping one of them off. You need to do such and such for security scheme x, but that's already patented by so and so...etc.

    It's a bloody mess, so Mac fans...don't get your hopes up. I know a lot of you are suddenly all pumped about this smartphone revolution that has been around a lot longer than your iPhone...but this particular market is a minefield. Wonder why you haven't seen much out of Palm lately? Everywhere you turn, there's another freaking patent in your face and another guy or corporation who is sitting on it looking to make his quick fortune. That is why REAL innovation is slowing down so much in the mobile market. Either you innovate and risk the lawsuits, or you try and work around the patents, and you never get anything done.

    And if you don't like it, then get up and do something about the US patent system.
  • Re:Unbelievable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SpaceLifeForm ( 228190 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @06:34PM (#21834422)
    The fact that you "can find at least 3 ways to summarize even really good and innovative patents" should tell you that the patent in question is neither good nor innovative.

  • This is new? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cgreentx ( 990146 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @06:46PM (#21834558)
    Yes.. Everyone is saying practically the same thing here, but I've ordered items from the browser on my cell phone at Best Buy and Circuit City while standing at the Customer Service counter because the idiot managers refused to order their online prices... Minutes later my order was pulled and I got, imagine this, notification on my phone via email that my order was ready. Highly innovative there Apple.
  • Re:Unbelievable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zordak ( 123132 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @07:02PM (#21834686) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure there is some very specific crap in there to somehow make this 'different' and 'patentable'.
    If so, then that "very specific crap" will limit the claims to make them allowable. A patent does not give you the right to prohibit anybody from doing anything that looks like the abstract. It's limited by the claims, which have to be patentable over prior art. Until you've read and carefully examined the claims, you have not idea what the "patent" is.
  • by gentlemen_loser ( 817960 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @07:26PM (#21834858) Homepage
    In the 1980s, I could walk up to an ATM machine, tap a few buttons, and order airline tickets. This put me ahead of the people standing in line at the ticket counter.

    That's pretty cool. Here in the 2007s, we get to wait 2 hours, strip nekkid, walk through a metal detector, and have a bomb sniffing dog rammed up our asses whenever we go to the airports. Its a shame I never got to experience the mystical place you are describing.
  • Re:Yuck (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @07:58PM (#21835112)

    Patents are for recuperating costs (among other uses), where are Apple's costs in developing this idea?

    Patents allow you to recoup costs. Patents do not require that have costs.

    Causation is one reason for correlation. Correlation is not one reason for causation.

    Or, more generally,( A --> B ) -/-> ( B --> A ). Yay symbolic logic.

  • Are you high? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by marcmac ( 105570 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @08:06PM (#21835156)
    Last time Apple "got away from their core business of making computers and operating system software" they invented the friggin' iPhone - maybe you've heard of it? Or did you miss the announcement because your iPod was too loud? (iPod being the time before last that they "got away from their blah blah blah".

    Seriously - AAPL is at $200, and Apple marketshare is growing, precisely because of this kind of lifestyle stuff.
  • by value_added ( 719364 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @08:25PM (#21835306)
    I still don't understand why people pay $6 for a cup of coffee. Coffee is supposed to be $0.50 and unlimited refills.

    Ahh, the great old days when coffee was indeed pennies per cup and unlimited refills were cheerfully served by a blue-haired waitress with a name like Marge or Betty sewn on her uniform. What I wouldn't pay to go back to those days, when the coffee I was served was made from stale low-grade beans and boiled to within an inch of its life in large percolators where it typically sat for hours before the watery, tasteless but occasionally aromatic brew was poured into my waiting cup.

    Come to think of it, I do. About 50 cents, and not a penny more.

    I've not done the arithmetic, but I would guess that's the cost of a typical cup of coffee in my house. Not factoring in the cost of an espresso machine and a burr grinder (with maintenance contracts on both), and the time required to grind, heat (the machine, utensils, milk, cups, and just about everything else), then brew, prepare, serve, and clean up afterwards, it's a real steal! Even better, I don't have to tip anyone. Mind you, if I wanted to have a chocolate desert blended into my coffee instead of eaten on a plate with a fork like I normally do, it might very well be close to $6 per cup.

    The moral to this story, if there is one, is that you get what you pay for. The way I see it is that it took America about 50 years to discover and then catch onto the idea of quality, fresh, personally-prepared coffee that folks in other countries took for granted, so it might take another few years for everyone here to get used the idea that it should cost more. For everyone else, there's those vending machines at your local Quickie Mart, and a restaurant here or there with waitresses named Marge or Betty ready to pour you that 50 cent cup.
  • Re:Obvious patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sparks23 ( 412116 ) * on Thursday December 27, 2007 @08:39PM (#21835426)
    It's not quite the same thing. The example given by another poster of Japanese cellular phones (which can function as something akin to credit cards, train passes, and generally do the sorts of things our wireless providers are not yet dreaming of) is more accurate.

    What I find sad is less specifically that Apple's patenting this and more that we've come to a situation where companies HAVE to try and patent anything they do in litigational self-defense, lest they end up like RIM with the endless stream of "Your Blackberry infringes on our never-used patent, you pay us money now!" lawsuits they suffer. Half of the meaningless patents we see these days are for protecting some process, specifically so that someone ELSE doesn't patent it and try to sue you. (And probably the other half are specifically being patented in hopes that eventually someone will have actionable infringement and can be sued.)

    This totally misses the point of what the patent system was intended for, and absolutely nobody wins. But the fact that the patent system is fundamentally broken at this point is not exactly news...
  • Re:Are you high? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phalse phace ( 454635 ) on Thursday December 27, 2007 @11:15PM (#21836344)
    Nope. The last time Apple "got away from their core business of making computers and operating system software" they invented (overpriced) iPod socks []. Yes, you read that correctly.... socks.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI