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Apple's interest in simplified remote computing revealed

Future devices from Apple could allow users to quickly and seamlessly transfer work and personal files from one system and platform to another, allowing any computer to temporarily become a personal computer.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week published a new patent application from Apple entitled "Mirrored File System." The document describes "recruiter" and "volunteer" machines that would allow certain tasks, and accompanying files, to be quickly delegated to another networked computer.

The application was made public after a rumor earlier this month alleged that Apple is exploring "remote computing" technology in its next-generation iPhone. That report alleged that the inclusion of a near-field communications chip would allow users to securely turn a nearby Mac into their own computer, complete with custom settings and personal passwords.

Apple's new patent application covers much of the same ground, describing a dedicated file system on a recruiter machine that would be shared with a volunteer machine. The volunteer hardware would be able to mount and populate a mirrored version of at least a portion of the recruiter machine's data.

The application offers many reasons as to why this technology would be advantageous to users, but focuses largely on processor-intensive tasks that may need to be offloaded to a secondary computer.

In the described invention, recruiter machines are hardware that need assistance in completing a processor-heavy task. Volunteer machines are then utilized to help finish the job in a more timely fashion.

The document mentions computers that build code bases, and the significant processing resources required to do so. It notes that current distributed build systems offer some improvements to the process, but not enough.

But the system also speaks to Apple's rumored remote computing plans, with volunteer machines accepting tasks and files from another machine. Any work done on the volunteer machine is then sent back to the host once it is completed.

"The root directory is changed to correspond to the mount point or root directory of the dedicated file system for the recruiter machine," the application reads, "so that the processing of the task is performed with respect to that file system."

The application also includes security precautions, ensuring that data is removed from the temporary volunteer machine once the task is completed.

In addition, it describes a system that is "transparent" to the user. Though the files may be accessed from a secondary device, users interact with just one machine to complete their task.

In rumors associated with Apple's next-generation iPhone, the handset would represent the "recruiter," sharing files and delegating tasks to a "volunteer" machine. The use of an RFID near-field communications chip is speculated to offer quick, easy and secure verification with a temporary system, like a Mac.

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Using their iPhone, users would be able to quickly activate their custom settings, bookmarks, wallpaper and more. Personal data, like contacts, passwords and software licenses, could also be made available.

Apple has shown great interest in decentralizing the computing experience, as users become even more mobile with devices like the iPhone and iPad. Recent devices, like the new Apple TV and MacBook Air, come with less internal storage as more content is accessed from the cloud.