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.