Is Apple Creating Ad-Supported Devices?

By Craig Buckler
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Apple ad-supported revenue patentIt’s not often Apple investigates cost-cutting measures. Consider MP3 players. They existed long before the iPod, but Apple took the technology, put it in a great-looking box, doubled the price and had a world-wide hit.

It’s the same story for the iPhone, iMacs, and the other technology Apple produces. Apple fanboys are rarely price-sensitive. When a new Apple product appears, they will sell their children for medical experiments just to get their hands on the device.

However, a recently discovered Apple patent reveals the company are considering alternative revenue options. The patent refers to an “enforcement routine” which plays adverts at pre-defined intervals that the user would not be able to skip. In addition, the device may asks questions or request specific key-press combinations to ensure the user has been paying attention. An incorrect response could result in temporary device lockdown. Nasty.

Although many would find such heavy-handed advertising intrusive, it would allow you to obtain an Apple product for a significantly discounted price — perhaps even free.

There’s no certainty Apple will implement the technology. Like most major technology companies, they regularly submit patents which never result in an actual product. Apple have refused to comment further, however, unlike many previous filings, CEO Steve Jobs is named on this patent.

Ad-supported revenue is an idea that’s been gaining momentum within the IT industry for several years. It’s Google’s primary source of income and Microsoft is trying it within products such as MS Works. For Apple, it could mark an extreme shift in emphasis away from selling premium hardware to dedicated disciples. If the advertising model works, anyone could have an Apple product and the perception of exclusivity would be lost forever.

Could Apple be serious about the advertising patent? How would Apple users feel if their beloved products were available to the masses at little or no cost?

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  • My220x

    I don’t think many will buy a device which makes you listen to ads before you can use it, I know I wouldn’t as I would want to use the device as quick as possible. I think ad supported products only work for software as you can ignore them.

  • W^L+

    I think Apple’s image would take too large of a hit. Intrusive ads might be accepted in HP products, because they are perceived as trash anyway.

    More to the point, advertising is very pervasive. A couple of months ago, in a small town in Missouri, I counted 100 ads (radio, signs, billboards, vehicle paint jobs, and bumper stickers) in seven minutes on my way to work. If advertising was as effective now as it was forty years ago, the residents of that area would be beyond broke. As advertising infests more and more of our lives, we become more and more resistant.

    Actually, after the furor about pop-ups and pop-unders a few years back, I am surprised that no one seems to get that consumers hate most ads, especially intrusive, invasive, force-your-way-in-front-of-my-face ads. Google’s ad supremacy is built upon non-intrusive text-based ads instead of the images, color, and motion that characterize many of their competitor’s ads (and now theirs also with the integration of DoubleClick). If you stay out of my way and make it easy for me to view the content, I might be more willing to check out the product or service.

    I would expect that ad-supported MS Office (the replacement for Works) is already going to drive a lot of people to use OpenOffice instead. I am sure that it will use intrusive ads to try and replace the funds generated by Microsoft’s major cash cow. Ad-supported devices are likely to go the way of those ISPs that were “free” as long as their ads were playing. It didn’t take long for users to decide that standard paid ISPs were a better deal.

  • Unless the device is free, I don’t see these inconveniences as being tolerable to the average customer. You are correct, Apple “fanboys” will buy anything from Apple, which I attribute to them being brainwashed. I own a iMac, and I use Linux and Windows as well. The hype that Apple has created about their Macs is genius, but the Macs themselves are not as great as they’d like you to believe. I suspect this is the case with most of their products.

  • Ugh, another patent that I hate. This seems like a rehash of what Crunchyroll and others already do. For those that don’t know, Crunchyroll offers lots of full length anime and foreign TV shows for free. However, before the movie plays, in the middle, and at the end an add plays which you can’t skip.

    Heck, others have been doing this in a more limited fashion for ages. I remember seeing this on MSN News long ago.

  • I’m a Mac user and generally love Apple products, but I’m sure I wouldn’t buy a device, even if it’s made by Apple, that constantly nags me to look at ads…

    This business is getting way over the line, and it’s sad that the world is heading this way.
    Ads should be a thing of the past.

  • Orracle

    As if we’re not already inundated with ridiculous amounts of advertising as it is! I would never – EVER – have such a product, even if Jobs were to deliver it to my door himself.