Apple wants to patent technology that would allow it to display advertising on just about everything with a screen. It’s also exploring ways to force consumers to view the ads, whether they want to or not.
The new technology, which Apple could potentially use to display ads on computers, phones, TVs, media players, and gaming consoles (among other things), would include a built-in feature that freezes the media device until the user acknowledges he/she has seen or heard the ad.
In the case of music devices (such as the iPod), users would be required to click a button, acknowledging they’re listening before the ad starts.
The technology’s inventors argue the new technology will actually offset costs, allowing consumers to pay less (or, in some cases, nothing) for some of their favorite electronic devices. If the ads became too much of a distraction, consumers could later pay a fee to disable the ads.
The problem: We’re living in the digital age, where most content is free and companies are scrambling to come up with ways to charge for (or profit from) the same content they used to offer at cost. That type of atmosphere doesn’t bode well for this type of marketing ploy – especially considering the tech-savvy demographic that accounts for such a huge chunk of Apple’s annual revenue.
Of course there’s no guarantee that Apple will use this technology, even
if the patent is approved. But it does raise serious questions about what lengths even the most innovative, profitable companies are willing to consider in order to keep revenues strong in a post-industrial world.
Source: “Apple Wouldn’t Risk Its Cool Over a Gimmick, Would It?” by Randall Stross, New York Times, 11/15/09.