Apple patents 'net-booted' OS contraption
Mac in the sky dream
Apple has patented a network computing setup that involves a "net-booted" operating system.
First filed in 2006, the patent describes a means of "supplying a reliable and maintainable operating system in a net-booted environment". Apple is building a $1 billion – yes, $1 billion – data center in rural North Carolina, and no one quite knows what it's intended for. So the blogosphere is putting two and two together.
But the ideas in Apple's patent date back to the previous millenium. The filing is a continuation of a patent application submitted in 1999.
Nonetheless, some are dreaming of a "cloud-based" Apple operating system. Google is building cloud operating system of its own – Chrome OS – but Apple's setup is a bit different. Whereas Google has put all applications and data inside the browser – the idea is that almost everything is stored on the net – Apple's system is a classic thin client arrangement.
One incarnation of the system includes a network computing (NC) server and several NC client, and clients are "booted to receive operating system software that is configured differently than that currently." In effect, the patent reads, the system replaces "one or more system volumes on the NC server containing the operating system software with one or more different system volumes." Users are able to bring up their particular OS profiles from different machines, and all this is managed by a network administrator using one of the NC clients.
"When an NC client boots from the network and accesses a stored copy of the operating system from an NC server, the user's preferences are dynamically merged with the system environment provided to the NC client," the patent reads. "Advantageously, since, the user's desktop preferences and other customized settings are all preserved from session to session and supplied to the NC client as it boots from the network, the user may login to any NC client on the network and have the same user experience."
Obviously, this is intended for corporate use. But it could be applied to a consumer set-up as well. Apple specifically mentions that the system is meant to work with Mac OS X, but it says the setup could be applied to other OSes as well, including Windows and Linux.
The server incarnation of Apple's OS has included a NetBoot tool since its original launch, and this too is mentioned in the patent. ®
Actually, the problem is that tax dollars AREN'T supporting the USPTO, as of Reagan's decision to make the USPTO a cash cow rather than a public service. Of the $2 billion in fees they're collecting in 2010, they have to give the government $1.88 billion of that(1). USPTO is a major government profit centre. Unfortunately, they don't get to keep that money to improve operations. Therefore, to make ends meet, and since they only get money if a patent is approved, they're approving everything that gets submitted. The fact that it's costing their country billions upon untold billions, and driving the whole "innovation" thing into the ground and burying it, is "not their problem".
(1) source: http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2010/01/director-kappos-on-the-usptos-lack-of-funding.html
Can't be too small, since all typical "Netboot" scenarios require specific BOOTP and/or DHCP options to function. Apple has to be thinking of a different protocol or method to accomplish this and that certainly should be patentable.
I'm more concerned with how far reaching this patent is. Sounds like an amalgamation of prioprietary and open standards, which shouldn't be patentable as a whole. Thankful that my tax dollars are hard at work supporting the glue sniffers at the US PTO.
How is this patentable? We've had network booting for a very long time. Is the only difference that it's going across the Internet instead of local LAN? That would seem to be quite a small distinction.
So ... previous art?
Windows terminal server comes to mind
LTSP for Linux
Citrix might have done something similar.
Should I go on?
Paris, because she's famous for having done something everyone else does too
"We are actively working with Congress and the Administration to find ways to retain funds in excess of the $1.887 billion spending cap"...
It's not that they collect $2B and only get a sliver of it. It's that they collect $2B and cannot keep more than $1.88B of it. What that means, and how that compares to the money spent in patenting things, I don't know. But it does mean they keep 94% of the fees, not 6% as implied.