Here's an absolutely brilliant idea from Apple: imagine if you had a bunch of different gadgets, and imagine if they could all somehow be powered by batteries that were rechargeable and all interchangeable with one another. How awesome would that be? Super awesome! If only we'd thought of it a long time ago.
Yes, that's right, we did think of it a long time ago. Rechargeable batteries that come in standardized sizes that will power anything you can stuff them into have been around approximately forever, or at least since I was a little whippersnapper, which amounts to the same thing as far as I'm concerned.
If you put a little forethought into your gadget purchases, utilizing standard-size rechargeable batts can make your life much simpler, especially if you travel: with a few sets of rechargeable AA batteries and an adapter, for example, I can charge and power literally everything with a USB connection (including cameras, smartphones, and, yes, even a computer).
There are some differences in Apple's patent. For example, it's for battery packs that are flat and squareish instead of round. Gadzooks! Also, the patent specifies that the packs are lithium, making them much more powerful and longer lasting, which nobody is really doing (except with power tools, though that's more by brand and not across the board).
Now, to really be fair, the meat of this patent seems to be that the battery packs themselves have some built-in smarts. They can control their output depending on what you put them into, they're hot-swappable, and they can even throttle themselves to extend their lifespans. We'll admit that there's some cleverness there.
However, it would take a company with more clout than Apple to create an ecosystem around a new "universal" battery form-factor. Apple might make the tech work for just Apple peripherals, but since the batteries would probably be proprietary and cost a bajillionty dollars each, there wouldn't be a whole lot of incentive of anyone else to start using them. And honestly, at this point it's going to be very difficult (if not impossible) to break out of the standardized form factors that already exist: AAs and AAAs and whatnot already power tons of things, are available absolutely everywhere, and cost next to nothing. They're not smart, and they're not white with rounded corners, but they're cheap, and they work.