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Apple Wants To Store Your History in the Cloud

Most online backup is about keeping the latest and greatest version of what resides on a device, whether a PC, tablet, or smartphone. Online backup is likely part of Apple's plans, as BNET's Damon Brown has noted. There's also that rumor of Apple buying 12 petabytes of storage.

Some think the storage would be for iTunes video. But maybe the storage is for far more than just video. Three recent patent filings suggest that Apple has a super version of backup on its mind. Someone would be able to go into an application (like iTunes or the App Store), find what material was available at a previous time, and recover any or all of what once was there.

In programming and engineering, a similar concept is called version control. Software tracks the difference between file versions when saved and can recover previous versions. The Apple patent applications discuss something that seems like version control for applications that would run on an iPhone or iPad.

The underlying concept isn't new for Apple; the patent applications refer to and incorporate by reference applications that date back to August 2006. One of the new applications became public today, and two more last week:

We won't focus on whether Apple locks up some feature or function. Instead, consider the company's strategic direction. For that reason, here are the application abstracts, rather than the actual claims:
  • Systems and methods for storing and restoring backup data. One method includes receiving, while a current view of an application is displayed in a user interface, a first user input requesting a history view associated with the current view of the application. The history view is displayed in response to the first user input, the history view including at least a first visual representation of an earlier version of the current view of the application, the earlier version including a first element. A second user input is received while the history view is displayed. The second user input requesting that the current view of the application be modified according to the earlier version, at least with regard to the first element. The current view of the application is modified in response to the second user input according to the earlier version, at least with regard to the first element.
  • Systems and methods for providing a user interface including earlier versions of data. In one implementation, computer program product is provided. The computer program product generates a user interface. The user interface includes a view display area for presenting a current view and a history view display area for presenting a history view associated with the current view. The history view includes one or more first visual representations of corresponding earlier versions of the current view. The user interface also includes an input control for initiating a restoration of the current view according to at least a portion of an earlier version of the one or more earlier versions.
  • Systems and methods for navigating within snapshots are provided. In one implementation a method is provided. The method includes receiving, while a current view is displayed in a user interface, a first user input requesting that a history view associated with the current view be displayed. The history view is displayed in response to the first user input, the history view including at least a first visual representation of an earlier version of the current view, the earlier version including a hierarchical structure wherein a first element of the earlier version includes a second element. There is received, while the history view is displayed, a second user input requesting that the current view be modified according to the second element. The method includes modifying, in response to the second user input, the current view according to the second element.
Boiling it down, someone using an application could request and then navigate a historic view of the content associated with the application in the past. Then the user could restore whatever they wanted of that previous state. Plus, by implementing the history in the earlier form of the application, users don't have to learn yet another piece of software or scroll through long lists of files.

It also wouldn't be limited to iTunes or the App Store. Imagine if Apple made an API available to all third party developers. Suddenly, apps could incorporate smart backup. Missing a file? Fire up the app and go back in time. No need to go through lists of everything that might have been on your device at the time. It would be elegant restoration.

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