Apple has filed a patent that suggests it will enable music streaming between iPods and other devices.

The patent, filed on 1 September 2006, describes a way to "deliver data" from portable devices to other electronic devices. It doesn't specify iPods or iPhones within its description.

Apple's filing - "Media data exchange, transfer or delivery for portable electronic devices" - describes a broad range of uses for the technology, from sharing protected and unprotected media files to news feeds and shopping lists, Apple Insider reports.

Apple describes the patent as covering: "Methods and systems that facilitate data delivery to electronic devices".

"One aspect pertains to data delivery to electronic devices that are portable, such as, mobile devices. In one embodiment, one mobile device discovers another mobile device within its vicinity. The mobile devices can then wirelessly transmit data from one mobile device to the other. The mobile devices, or their users, can control, request or influence the particular data content being delivered," Apple explains.

The patent also suggests that subscription-based files (presumably also including iTunes Store purchases) can be shared in an unlimited manner with other users.

The technology is broadly similar to that used in Microsoft's Zune music player, but appears to offer consumers more utility and simpler-to-use functionality than that device does.

"In one embodiment, one mobile device discovers another mobile device within its vicinity. The mobile devices can then wirelessly transmit data from one mobile device to the other," the filing explains.

"Typically, the mobile devices are associated with persons (users). The mobile devices, or their users, can control, request or influence the particular data content being delivered."

The technology also encompasses media purchases, accessing a remote server to buy content - hinting a mobile version of iTunes may be in development.

The extensive patent filing (number 20070161402) offers schematic diagrams and in-depth explanations of what the technology could achieve.