An Apple patent (number 8117228) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows how the company intends to offer head-to-head comparisons of products at its online stores.

The invention provides a comparison of a set of similar items includes: receiving from a first member of an online community a selection of a stored prior comparison created by another online community member of a set of similar items; providing to the first member a template for the comparison, the template being at least partially pre-populated using data from the stored prior comparison created by the other online community member; and receiving from the first member a submission of the comparison, wherein the comparison includes one or more modifications as made by the first member to the template. The inventors are Kenneth N. Chang, David A. Koski, Pedraum R. Pardehpoosh and Ralph E. Zuzula.

Here’s Apple’s background on the invention: “In the context of online stores, a user or potential customer of the store typically has for a particular type or class of item multiple different models from which to select. Different models may differ, for example, by available features, prices, manufacturers, etc. In some cases, administrators of an online store may provide comparisons of features and/or prices for different models of the same type of item to aid a user in the selection of a particular item.

“Such administrator supplied comparisons, however, typically do not include reviews on individual items and/or user feedback on items. A user of an online store may have access to reviews and/or feedback posted by others on individual items, but the user typically would have to expend time reading and sifting through the reviews for each individual item from a set of similar items under consideration to gain a sense of the pros and cons of each item. A single review and/or comparison of different models of the same type of item may exist from third parties (e.g., other web sites, magazine articles, etc.). However, a user or potential customer of the online store would have to locate such a review and/or comparison externally from the online store.

“It would be useful for a user of an online store to have access within an online store to side-by-side comparisons and reviews on a plurality of items of the same type. In addition, when making a decision on which item to select, e.g., for purchase, it might be useful to the user to receive, from someone who has knowledge and/or expertise on the type of item and who is not an employee or affiliate of the online store who may have an interest in selling an item and possibly not the best interests of the user in consideration, a recommendation on the best item in a set of similar items available at the online store.”