In a press release, Canadian firm Maya Systems has revealed that Apple has purchased 18 of its patents that relate to the firm’s “axis based user interface technology.” The transaction between the two companies took place in the third quarter of 2012.
The axis-based UI aims at organising content (files, folders etc.) in a different paradigm than what we’re used to seeing in traditional apps like Finder or Explorer:
Unlike folder trees based on file location, axes group files by subject (any attribute, really) and display them along a timeline.
Scroll an axis to view more files. Zoom in. Zoom out. Navigate swiftly between projects by displaying several axes on your screen.
Attribute-based, orderly and relational, axes give users a meaningful and integrated view of their files.
The UI is currently used in Maya-Systems’ product IamOrganised, which helps users access documents stored in the cloud through various types of devices, organised as multiple projects available in a timeline based view.
The press release notes that Apple was not the only one in the fray to acquire these patents:
“We dealt with a significant number of sophisticated buyers. Our patents have been analyzed thoroughly by many potential buyers. We are confident that they are strong assets.”
While there’s no word from Apple as to why they acquired these 18 patents, the cloud based storage and the alternative representation of content is certainly something the company could use in future developments for iCloud. iCloud’s Documents in the Cloud and Photo Stream are very similar in functionality to Maya-Systems’ IamOrganised and could benefit from the axis-based UI. Moreover, the description of how the axes UI can be navigated through (zooming, scrolling) feels tailored for a touchscreen, specifically iOS devices.