An Apple patent (number 20110113089) for delivering media rich invitation content on mobile devices has popped up at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It involves the provisioning of invitational content, and more specifically to providing media-rich-invitational content — including advertisements, on mobile devices from within mobile applications.

Per the patent, the technology relates to providing invitational content having enhanced content and capabilities to make the invitational content more engaging and useful for users. Specifically, the invitational content can be configured to call on and utilize core operating system functions, additional web content, and other mobile device applications. The inventors are Eswar Priyadarshan and Ravikiran Chittari.

Here’s Apple’s background and summary of the invention: “The use of mobile phones in the United States and around the world has increased dramatically. It is projected that soon the number of mobile phone users will exceed the number of fixed telephone subscribers. The proliferation of mobile phone usage has engendered corresponding advances in mobile phone technology.

“Mobile phones can now handle many types of multimedia content. Consumers can navigate the World Wide Web (the ‘Web’) from their mobile phones to much the same degree as from their home computers. The proliferation of these new multimedia mobile phone devices has accordingly created a ripe market for content delivery, which both third-party content providers and wireless carrier companies have become increasingly interested in.

“However, the content available to mobile devices is often difficult to access and preview before downloading or purchasing. Indeed, most content must be advertised or marketed in some form to the consumer, and listed in a catalog, deck or file for the consumer to access and download. Displaying advertising or marketing information becomes essential for the distribution of any content intended for the mobile device.

“Nonetheless, mobile devices, and particularly mobile telephones, tablet computing devices, and PDAs are a practical invitational content delivery medium since many mobile device users spend significant amounts of time with their mobile devices. Much of this time, however, is now spent in ‘applications’ as opposed to merely using the device as a communication device. For example, many consumers utilize their mobile devices as a GPS device, as a portal to various social networking applications, and as a gaming device.

“Only a small percentage of a user’s operation of the device may be spent as an actual communication device. These applications are often developed by third parties (e.g., people other than the device manufacturer or the network provider), and can limit the ability of content developers to reach the end users. Some companies may provide application programming interfaces (APIs) to developers that allow access to content delivery networks or device operating system functionality, but the ability to access multiple content delivery networks and render media-rich content all within the context of an application is not currently supported.

“There are also various technical difficulties with invitational content delivery on mobile devices. Some mobile device content requires multiple applications to execute on a mobile device in order to display different content. These multiple applications can sometimes overload a mobile device’s operating system, causing the device to malfunction. Some mobile device operating systems cannot automatically initiate an application to display invitational content. Also, many devices are only able to display invitational content through a web/WAP portal, requiring additional transmission time from the user to view the advertising information.

“Additional features and advantages of the disclosure will be set forth in the description which follows, and in part, will be obvious from the description, or can be learned by practice of the herein disclosed principles. The features and advantages of the disclosure can be realized and obtained by means of the instruments and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims. These and other features of the disclosure will become more fully apparent from the following description and appended claims, or can be learned by the practice of the principles set forth herein.

“The present technology relates to providing invitational content having enhanced content and capabilities to make the invitational content more engaging and useful for users. Specifically, the invitational content can be configured to call on and utilize core operating system functions, additional web content, and other mobile device applications.

“Such capabilities are also extremely beneficial for invitational content developers. Rather than develop functionalities and content from scratch for each item of invitational content, the invitational content can call on and make use of these functionalities that already exist on the mobile device or applications that are already in existence, whether installed on the mobile device or not.

“As an example, if the invitational content is an advertisement, it would be beneficial to a user and a content developer to be able to make use of a map application and a mobile device’s GPS functionality to guide a user to a nearby shop that is advertised in the invitational content. Rather than develop a map application for each item of invitational content, it is more efficient to use pre-existing applications. Not only is the development of the invitational content made easier and faster, but the size of the invitational content is reduced and therefore less bandwidth is required to serve the invitational content to the user.

“Of course, today there is a wide variety of mobile device hardware and several different mobile device operating systems. Accordingly, invitational content must be appropriate for the mobile device and operating system.

“To ensure that invitational content is appropriate for the device and operating system, the present technology also makes use of a content delivery network which can learn of various device features, such as device model and operating system, among others, and serve the appropriate content. In some embodiments, the content delivery network can also provide additional software that is not resident on a device when it is needed.

“Several different methods can be used to make use of mobile device operating system functionality or applications installed on the device. In one embodiment, a plug-in can be used along with a browser wherein the plug-in is configured to access operating system data. In some embodiments wherein such operating system data is protected, the operating system itself can have an agent to pass operating system parameters to the invitational content or supporting application. In such environments any supporting application or invitational content can be run in a virtual environment or sandboxed environment but still receive necessary data from the operating system agent.

“In some embodiments, before invitational content calls for a supporting application, it can interrogate the device operating system to determine if the desired functionality or supporting application is supported by the device.”

— Dennis Sellers