Apple has applied for a patent on a technology which would effectively embed adverts in its operating systems – and then force the user to pay attention to them.
Under the system described in the patent, the functionality of a device could be frozen, the on-screen content replaced with the advert, and then the functionality only restored once the user had clicked to acknowledge the advert.
The patent, uncovered by the New York Times, says such a system would be used to offer cheap or even free equipment with the ad system built-in. Users could then have the option of paying extra to remove the ads if they found them too annoying (or found a friendly hacker to come up with an unofficial way to disable the feature.)
Of course, while there is certainly an argument about the very principle of using such a system, many will see its merit being a matter of practice. While I couldn’t see it as being acceptable in a computer, and possibly being too intrusive in a phone, I might be willing to put up with some ads in return for a free iPod touch.
However, that would again depend on exactly how it was implemented. If it was a case of an onscreen ad when I started the device and another when I ran an app or went on to the web, I could probably live with it. If I had to fish the device out of my pocket to click on the screen between every song, as is specified as a possibility in the patent, I’d soon be doing more than giving it a gentle prod.
The application for the patent even suggests the system could have time limits to ensure the user clicks quickly enough to make sure they are paying attention. Miss the time limit and the next ad will have a smaller box to click on, meaning you have to pay even closer attention.
And if that’s not creepy enough, the patent suggests the system could even require the user to type the advertiser’s name.
There’s no guarantee that Apple has any intention of developing something like this and using it on its products, though. But the firm, simply having had the idea jars with the whole image of shiny white loveliness.