A series of patents published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office today (via PatentlyApple) suggested Apple is attempting to own as many Thunderbolt related trademarks and patents as possible. This is despite most being under the impression the technology is an open collaboration between Intel and Apple.
Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of today’s patents is the possibility Apple might bring Thunderbolt to iOS devices. According to one of the patents published today, “a connection may be provided between a portable media player and a display, a computer and a portable media player, or between other types of devices.”
The benefit of supporting Thunderbolt connections on iOS devices, at least initially, would be to provide faster recharging and data transfer. It is unclear from the patents whether an iOS device would act as a Thunderbolt host machine, like a MacBook, or simply as a supported peripheral. As PatentlyApple pointed out, Apple would have to reengineer the Thunderbolt “connector to be flat enough to fit a USB-type of device slot.”
Apple is already experimenting with next-generation 30-pin connectors that would potentially support high-speed Thunderbolt-like connections. A patent originally filed in 2009, and reported by PatentlyApple in April 2011, showed that Apple is working on a new hybrid connector for iOS devices to support dual-lane Display Port technology (same as Thunderbolt).