Is Apple An A-hole?

News came out over the weekend about a patent Apple filed in regards to 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.” (NYT)

As the NYT states, the technology wouldn’t be an annoying pop up but “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.”

Is the beloved Apple becoming an asshole? Or are they already there and just flexing their muscles?

The article goes further to state that because a patent is filed doesn’t mean that Apple does intend on using the technology but then why research it and have your well-known micromanager CEO’s name on the application?

The move from computers to consumer electronics and digital services over the years has clearly been a profit leader and game changer for the once struggling Apple. Their outsider reputation was supported by many true believers throughout the 90s and grew to one of the most beloved companies through these innovative products. It seems that their advertising money truly has been well-spent in convincing people that they are the ‘friendly’ technology company but is that all just a white matte facade? They already suffered criticism in the online community due to DRM issues in the past but this was a selective conversation and I find it doubtful that the majority of iPod and Apple iTunes Store users cared as much as those concerned with digital culture issues would have it. People still bought the iWhatevers by the arseload and Apple’s “Mac vs PC” campaign on tv has continued to pit Apple has the authentic friendly underdog to the stuffy old Windows PC.

Would this new patented advertising gimmick really be worth the risk to their reputation that it would entail from all the people affected by it?

It could in a few ways: 1) non-adoption by people who are alerted to advertising being on the devices before purchase, 2) abandonment by former users, or 3) continued use by those who are so tied into the Apple system and products that they would stick with it despite the hassle. It is much harder to get people to switch from something once they have already invested their money in it. I suspect if this technology is used on the iPhone or iPods then people who are so embedded with the systems will have little choice unless they want to start over from scratch. After spending all that money at the iTunes store or App Store, will a little advertising really force you to change? I doubt even an older model would be exempt as they would probably sneak the advertising in through a firmware upgrade.

This is all speculation and given how Apple does strictly control their brand identity they might not be willing to risk it on something like this. It can’t think that it would bring in as significant an income to balance out the lose of brand status and reputation.

Here’s the patent application for your perusal.

Another short piece on this at The Independent.


  1. Chris

    I doubt this advertising system would be put up as a hurdle to jump for their already existing products and services.

    But think about the possibilities with streaming video and audio. We tolerate ads on TV and radio because for all intents and purposes we get their content for free. If you could watch any TV show or listen to any song for free on your iPod wouldn’t it be worth a questionnaire now and then?

  2. Jordan

    If it was similar to how Hulu or Pandora do their advertisements I don’t really see cause for complaint. I doubt that that would be comparable to the money they make off the iTunes store currently. It makes me think it could lead to a ‘freezing’ (which they state in the patent app) of say, your iPhone, until you respond to the ad. I would doubt they are going to do what Microsoft is about to do with Office (as stated in that NYT article) put ads in computer software. It’s all speculation but it makes me curious what the point is.

    I have no problem with a Hulu/Pandora like advertising model or even the Netflix pay by the month for no advertising model.

  3. Ian

    The wide majority of patents don’t see widespread use. So don’t jump the gun on this. Apple could just be locking this up because they have the idea and want to make money off other companies would might want to do something similar.

    I personally have refused to buy any Apple computers or other products. To answer your question: Yes, Apple is an A-hole, and has been since their inception. Take a look at their recent take down of PsyStar, the company that tried to produce Mac clones. They work to maintain exclusivity of their brand, which in turn allows them to protect the “image” of what Apple is and dictate what an Apple user should be like (via advertising). It also allows them to jack their prices up because they effectively eliminate competition. What is so special about an I-Pod, really? Every other MP3 players plays MP3s too, and usually for a lot less money.

    You can’t directly compare Microsoft to Apple because they sell you different things. Last I checked, my computer is not Microsoft brand name. My operating system is. Mac’s are essentially the same exact computers as PCs, they just run a different operating system. You over-pay for Macs just to use their OS. I can take an HP, or a Sony, or any other PC maker’s computer (or one I have built) and I can install Windows or Linux or any other OS on it I want. I can not install Mac’s OS onto that computer. That is stupid. Why should a piece of software require you to buy over a thousand dollars worth of hardware?

    Its been repeated ad nauseam all over the internet and in Microsoft ads, but the I’m a Mac/I’m a PC ads are pretty douchebaggish. For how inept they make the PC character seem, he’s a much more likable character than the Mac guy. The Mac guy just comes off like a smug jerk. Apple sells image, and I truly believe that a large fraction of Apple’s sales come from people who don’t know much about computers, but just want to feel like they are different and cool. I think they believe purchasing a Mac makes them appear computer savvy.

    Oh you say your PC got a virus? Funny, my PC has never gotten a virus cause I don’t open stupid FWD emails or visit shady websites. When my PC has had problems, it was because of a hardware failure, not because of the OS (You run a graphics card on maximum for 3 years, it burns out. The game isn’t even offered on a Mac). I’m not a computer scientist, I am not Microsoft certified, I am just a casual user. Using the “Macs are more secure” argument for them comes across as “Macs have training wheels so I won’t fall off my bike”.

    This rant has gone on enough, and I need to get back to work. In short: F Apple.

  4. Jordan

    *lol* I think your rant was better than my post to be honest and hit on a bunch of points I should’ve if had been a bit more awake and wanting to do a more comprehensive overview of Apple douchiness. As you said, having the patent is one thing, actually putting it to use another.