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Microsoft patents apps that let you buy things, Ballmer to go on licensing spree?

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Many of us use apps to buy stuff these days, whether its grabbing the latest e-book from Amazon, or a Groupon for a day of pampering at the local spa. Seems obvious now, but it wasn't (at least according to the USPTO) in 2004, when Microsoft filed a patent application for the idea -- and that application was recently granted. The patent claims a way to make purchases through an network-connected portal with a "streamlined interface" (to "streamline" the process of parting you from your money, no doubt). The portal maintains a list of selling sites and exchanges info as needed to let buyers pick up what the seller's putting down. Now, we aren't intimately familiar with the ways shopping apps work, but the patent language appears broad enough to cover apps that make internet purchases without using a full-on web browser -- though only a federal court can say for sure. The only other question is, what are Ballmer and his boys going to do with these newly granted IP powers?

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