Apple's online stores to get Ping-y?
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Apple's online stores to get Ping-y?

Ping on iTunes hasn't exactly set the world ablaze, but Apple seems to be considering a similar feature for its online stores. An Apple patent (number 20100332283) for social networking in shopping environments has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

This is directed to a system and method for providing social networking services using a portable electronic device. In some embodiments, a user may identify one or more articles of interest and transmit identifying information for the articles to mobile or other devices of the user's friends. The user's friends can review the identified articles, and provide comments for the user.

For example, the user's friends can give a thumbs up/down, a star rating, a comment (e.g., text, audio or video), or any other type of comment. In some embodiments, the user can request the assistance of a salesperson using the social networking application device, for example to request recommended articles based on a particular event or need. In some embodiments, the social networking application can provide information to or from a kiosk. The inventors are Stanley Ng, Christine Cho and Monica Tran.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "This is directed to providing social networking applications in shopping environments. In particular, this is directed to providing social networking applications operating on mobile devices by which users can share and receive information related to their shopping, such as purchase recommendations.

"When shopping in brick and mortar stores, such as in a mall, some users like having friends with them to look at items to purchase (e.g., clothing), and to get their friends' recommendations and comments on proposed purchases. Similarly, some users rely on salespeople recommendations to select which items to purchase, or which items to try (e.g., which clothing or outfits to try on). These approaches, however, require the user to have their friends with them during the shopping trip, or require the users to catch the attention of a salesperson and ensure that the salesperson remains available during the shopping trip.

"At other times, users may wish to meet up with friends at different points during a shopping trip. Although users can use text messaging, telephone calls, or other communications means to coordinate, these approaches can be time consuming and require complex coordination (e.g., several telephone calls before a group of users agrees on a meeting place and meeting time). In addition, the communications means can be limiting, in the sense that only some messages may be transmitted via the communications means (e.g., no images or video via telephone call, no immediate feedback via text message).

"This is directed to a system and method for providing social networking services in a shopping context in accordance with one embodiment of the invention. The social networking services provided can be used in other contexts, such as while traveling, out in the town, or other places that a user may go.

"In a shopping environment, a user may identify one or more articles of interest. Before purchasing the articles, the user may wish to consult with friends or other people. To do so, the user can use a mobile device to transmit identifying information for the articles to mobile or other devices of the user's friends (e.g., some or all friends in an address book, or just friends located within a maximum distance of the user, for example in the same mall). The identifying information can include links to databases of the articles, images or photographs of the articles, location information for the friends to see the articles (e.g., identify a rack in a store where an article of clothing was found) or any other suitable information. The user's friends can review the identified articles, and provide comments for the user. For example, the user's friends can give a thumbs up/down, a star rating, a comment (e.g., text, audio or video), or any other type of comment.

"In some embodiments, the user can receive recommendations of other articles to purchase instead of or in addition to the initially identified articles. For example, other users can provide identifying information for other articles available for purchase. As another example, other users can identify other articles already owned by the user that would go well with articles available for purchase (e.g., articles previously identified by the user, or articles identified by other users). The received recommendations can include comments to assist the user in determining whether to make a purchase. The recommendations provided by friends can include articles available in the store in which the user is shopping, in other stores (e.g., in the same complex or mall), online or from remote sources (e.g., links to an online store or to a catalog from which articles can be ordered) or from any other suitable source.

"In some embodiments, the user can request the assistance of a salesperson using the electronic device. For example, the user can provide one or more articles to a salesperson for comment, request recommended articles based on user-selected articles, or request recommended articles based on a particular event or need (e.g., request recommendations for an outfit suitable for a night out). Using an electronic device, the salesperson can review the request received from the user, and send proposed articles to the user for review. In some embodiments, the salesperson can bring proposed articles to the user, or place articles in a changing room for the user to try.

"In addition to sending and receiving communications directly with friends or salespersons, the social networking application can provide information to or from a kiosk. The kiosk can include communications circuitry for receiving information from individual users' electronic devices, and storage for storing received information. Using an electronic device, a user can provide information identifying articles of interest to the kiosk. Other users can then retrieve the information from the kiosk, and provide comments or other recommendations directly to the user or to the kiosk. The user can then retrieve the recommendations from the kiosk at a later time.

"In some embodiments, the kiosk can include a display and input interface by which users can interact with the kiosk. For example, users can direct the kiosk to display information for review. Using the input interface, users can provide recommendations, or identify other articles available for purchase by the user (e.g., surf the Internet using the kiosk, or navigate through catalogs of articles offered for sale by stores in the vicinity of the kiosk).

"Each user can limit the access of information provided to the kiosk. For example, the user can require a password, key or other authentication information for viewing uploaded information. As another example, the user can limit the users who can provide feedback or recommendations to the user (e.g., only friends from a friend network can provide feedback). Alternatively, the user can limit access or feedback based on the manner in which the information is accessed (e.g., allow remote viewing of the uploaded information, but only allow recommendations provided using the input interface of the kiosk).

"Each user can upload any suitable information to the kiosk. For example, the user can upload identifying information for one or more articles, polling requests (e.g., which outfit is better), videos, photographs, or other user generated content, meeting information (e.g., when and where to meet the user's friends that are in the same location), or any other type of information."

Also, another Apple patent (number 20100332296) has appeared that related to Apple's online stores. It involves systems, methods and computer-readable media for community review of items in an electronic store.

Disclosed are systems, computer-implemented methods, and tangible computer-readable media for community-based ranking in an electronic store. The method includes receiving a predictive ranking of an item in an electronic store and feedback about the item from each of a group of individuals, the predictive ranking being predictive of item performance in the electronic store. The method further tracks an actual ranking of the item over time based on item performance in the electronic store, provides an incentive for individuals in the group of individuals whose associated predictive ranking coincides with the actual ranking of the item, and presents in the electronic store received feedback from at least one individual associated with the predictive ranking that coincides with the actual ranking of the item.

Rankings can be directed to different subdomains in the electronic or online store. Individuals having favorable successful prediction ratios can receive incentives. Sam Gharabally is the inventor.

-- Dennis Sellers

 
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