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kstater
11-14-2009, 08:18 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/business/15digi.html?ref=technology

SOME of the best-loved technology on the planet” is how Apple (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/apple_computer_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org) describes its products when recruiting new employees. It’s a fair description. Skip to next paragraph (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/business/15digi.html?ref=technology#secondParagraph) Enlarge This Image (javascript:pop_me_up2('http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/11/15/business/15digi_CA0.html',%20'15digi_CA0',%20'width=570,height=600,scrollbars=yes,toolbars=no,resizable=yes') )
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Times Topics: Apple Inc. (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/apple_computer_inc/index.html)


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But the love that consumers send Apple’s way could flag if the company puts into place new advertising technology it has developed. In an application (http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=%2220090265214%22.PGNR.&OS=DN/20090265214&RS=DN/20090265214) filed last year and made public last month by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/p/patent_and_trademark_office/index.html?inline=nyt-org), Apple is seeking a patent for technology that displays advertising on almost anything that has a screen of some kind: computers, phones, televisions, media players, game devices and other consumer electronics.
Filing a patent application, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the company plans to use the technology. But the application shows, at the least, that Apple has invested in research to develop what it calls an “enforcement routine” that makes people watch ads they may not want to watch.
Its distinctive feature is a design that doesn’t simply invite a user to pay attention to an ad — it also compels attention. The technology can freeze the device until the user clicks a button or answers a test question to demonstrate that he or she has dutifully noticed the commercial message. Because this technology would be embedded in the innermost core of the device, the ads could appear on the screen at any time, no matter what one is doing.
The system also has a version for music players, inserting commercials that come with an audible prompt to press a particular button to verify the listener’s attentiveness.
The inventors say the advertising would enable computers and other consumer electronics products to be offered to customers free or at a reduced price. In exchange, recipients would agree to view the ads. If, down the road, users found the advertisements and the attentiveness tests unendurable, they could pay to make the device “ad free” on a temporary or permanent basis.
Would anyone have guessed that Apple, so widely revered, would seek patent protection of a gimmick not unlike one used to sell vacation timeshares? (Agree to attend the sales seminar and get a free weekend getaway!) Or could anyone have predicted that the Apple of 2009, a company with premium products, would file a patent application that could make it a latter-day descendant of Free PC and ZapMe, companies that in 1999 gave away PCs engineered to always display on-screen ads?
What the application calls the “enforcement routine” entails administering periodic tests, like displaying on top of an ad a pop-up box with a response button that must be pressed within five seconds before disappearing to confirm that the user is paying attention.
These tests “can be made progressively more aggressive if the user has failed a previous test,” the application says. One option makes the response box smaller and smaller, requiring more concentration to find and banish. Or the system can require that the user press varying keyboard combinations, the current date, or the name of the advertiser upon command, again demonstrating “the presence of an attentive user.”
Everything about this technology seems so antithetical to the guiding principles of Apple that one would naturally wonder whether Steven P. Jobs (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/j/steven_p_jobs/index.html?inline=nyt-per) even knows whether his company filed a patent application for such a thing. Apple has 34,300 employees, and Mr. Jobs, though named by Fortune magazine this month as “C.E.O. of the decade,” can’t be expected to keep track of everything that every Apple employee does.
Yet Mr. Jobs is directly connected to this particular patent application: his name is the first listed of the five inventors. This is a rarity, occurring only four times among the 30 applications on which he is co-inventor that have been published by the patent office since March 2008.
How Mr. Jobs reconciles this advertising technology with Apple’s culture is not known. An Apple spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the patent application.
Microsoft (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/microsoft_corporation/index.html?inline=nyt-org) is also working on placing advertisements where they have not been before.
In its case, the plans are definite: next year, Microsoft will offer Office Starter 2010, a free version of Office pre-installed on some PCs. It will include a small Microsoft display ad in the lower-right corner of the screen, and offer only barebones versions of Word and Excel, with fewer functions than the regular paid ones.
It will not be the first time that Microsoft has experimented with ads on the software that runs on PCs — it began quietly in June 2007 with a version of Microsoft Works.
IN Office Starter 2010, Microsoft is not seeking revenue from advertising and is going to use the ads only to promote the full-featured, commercial versions of Office. The company plans to take customers “along a journey to educate them about the product,” said Bryson Gordon, a director on Microsoft’s Office team.
By allowing customers to ignore the ads that will sit passively in the corner of the screen, Microsoft will use a gentle approach to the up-sell.
The approach presented in Apple’s patent application is not gentle at all. Beyond that, it’s myopic. Were it to use the new technology, it’s hard to imagine how free, ad-supported versions of its products wouldn’t have a negative impact on the company’s brand.
The technology may be clever and original enough to earn Apple a patent. But the resulting products are likely to be more irritating than beloved.
<nyt_author_id>Randall Stross is an author based in Silicon Valley and a professor of business at San Jose State University. E-mail: stross@nytimes.com.

</nyt_author_id>

Fairplay
11-14-2009, 08:20 PM
I like to stare at ads to see who flinches first.

DaFace
11-14-2009, 08:22 PM
http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/ff328/spacedocking/BarackObamaAwHellNawMacro.jpg

Count Alex's Losses
11-14-2009, 08:27 PM
I'm gonna walk into every Apple store in the country and shoot it up.

http://i33.tinypic.com/s5g6f4.gif

Braincase
11-14-2009, 10:19 PM
I can see Microsoft using this for an ad campaign...
"Hate it when your computer locks up to show you ads... Yeah, that's an Apple thing".

pr_capone
11-14-2009, 10:21 PM
I would go apoplectic if I were in the middle of a game and some fucking ad came up.

Bearcat
11-14-2009, 10:32 PM
As long as the prices of the non-iAd products didn't go up and they aren't forcing it on people who don't want to see ads, I don't see a problem with it. It's a good way for Apple to compete on price and give people who wouldn't otherwise spend $200 on an iPod a way to afford one, while not lowering their prices and looking cheap.