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Apple Prepares to Rock the Market with Hardware Subsidizing Program

How Ads could be presented 4A-D 

The US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple today that reveals various concepts behind a newly advanced service in development that entails subsidizing an incredible array of hardware from Apple. The hardware ranges from their sizzling hot iPhone to Apple TV - the set top box - to an actual television, notebook, iPod touch and more. The subsidization could also cover software from Apple or third party developers. What's the catch? You'll have to endure a very complicated and savvy advertising scheme that makes sure that you're paying attention. If not, the system can freeze the user out until compliance is met. This isn't for everyone, especially if ads in your face are something you want to avoid at all costs. But for the mass market, this is a whole new ballgame! Steve Jobs is noted in Apple's credits for this patent and we could be assured that his name all but tells us that this program isn't a fantasy of an Apple engineer.  The implications of such a marketing move could rock the industry.

Advertising Architecture


Advertizing Architecture FIG 1

Apple's patent FIG. 1 noted above is that of a block diagram of an exemplary architecture 100 (e.g., a hardware architecture) for presenting advertisements. An advertisement is defined as being one of the following: a commercial, some form of marketing information or a product/service announcement.


Test Drive a Mac 1984 ad

In exchange for allowing ads to run on your system, you may be able to receive a free operating system, OS upgrade, a new computer program or upgrade or even hardware could be free or heavily subsidized so long as you'll agree to view or listen to commercials.


So what kind of hardware are we talking about here? Well, Apple actually lists quite the range of possible candidates including portable and desktop computers, a network computer (NC), servers, electronics, iPods, game devices, mobile phones, wireless devices, email devices, personal digital assistants (Think iPod touch), embedded devices, televisions, set top boxes (Think Apple TV), etc.


Realistically however, I think that Apple would likely ease into this concept with perhaps a Mac mini and a lower end iPhone in 2010/2011. Another guess would be to subsidize a media tablet where magazine ads are a must.  In 1984, Apple cleverly devised the "Take Macintosh out for a test drive" campaign to get people to try out this revolutionary computer.  The subsidy concept is a modern day twist on that concept as a means of getting a lower end Apple product into more people's hands.


Advertising Enforcement


In implementations where the operating system or OPS-based advertising is provided using executable code in the system, it can be necessary or desirable to protect that code from being removed, rendered inoperative, bypassed or manipulated. As another example, the system can provide constant or repeated monitoring of whether the system presents the advertisement(s) as scheduled. If non-presentation is detected, the system can invoke one or more enforcement routines to seek compliance with the advertisement presentation schedule. Such enforcement routines can include, but are not limited to, disabling the system in whole or in part, reporting the issue to a responsible party, invoking an alternative way of presenting the advertisement (such as by audio when visual presentation is impeded), or by registering the non-compliance in a log that can later be used in a follow-up process.


In other words, Apple is going to ensure advertisers that there'll be no way for users to get around  playing their ads. In addition, Apple can further determine whether a user pays attention to the advertisement. The determination can include performing, while the advertisement is presented, an operation that urges the user to respond; and detecting whether the user responds to the performed operation. If the response is inappropriate or nonexistent, the system will go into lock down mode in some form or other until the user complies. In the case of an iPod, the sound could be disconnected rendering it useless until compliance is met. For the iPhone, no calls will be able to be made or received.


In the case of a desktop or notebook, the UI and its components (e.g., menu bars, icons, etc.) may be faded, darkened, brightened, blurred, distorted or otherwise visually modified during the initial state (or while the advertisement is being presented) so as to emphasize that the desktop UI is temporarily inactive.


Subsidization: Managing and Presentation Architecture


Managing, Presenting Ad Architecture FIG 2

Apple's patent FIG. 2 is a block diagram of an example of a system for the management and presentation of advertisements (200). The system includes a computer device 205 that is connected to an advertising management system 210 and an advertiser's system 215 through the network 108. Generally, the advertising management system distributes advertisements relating to goods or services for one or more vendors that operate the advertisement system, and the computer device presents advertisements 220 for the products, goods, and/or services being promoted by the advertiser's system.


The advertising management system can provide some or all of the advertising content 265 to the advertising presentation module 245. The advertising management system can also receive reports stored in the log 270 about activity on the computer device 205, to confirm whether the advertising content has been presented, optionally along with any other information that may be recorded therein. The advertising management system may also deliver additional information to the advertising presentation module that configures the operating system 230 to perform the presentation and temporary disablement steps at predefined times. Such additional information and other possible updates associated with the functions performed by the advertising presentation module may be transferred or downloaded to the computer device via the network on a scheduled or random basis.


The process of presenting the advertising content and receiving reports about information from the log may be used as part of an approach for subsidizing the cost of hardware and/or software for the computer device.


Target Marketing


The advertising assignments, noted in  FIG. 2 as feature  280, defines what advertising content is to be delivered to what particular computer device and/or to which users, and/or defines when the advertisements should be shown, to name some examples. The advertising assignments may be based upon the computer device's capabilities; for example, high-resolution forms of the advertising content may be assigned to desktop computers, reduced-bandwidth content may be assigned to laptop computers, low-resolution content may be assigned to the iPod touch and video iPods, and audio-only content may be assigned to audio-only media players such as the iPod Shuffle.


The assignments may be based upon users' preferences; for example, a user may have filled out a questionnaire where he or she may have expressed a special interest in travel, and therefore may receive a greater proportion of travel related advertisements. In another example, the advertising content may be assigned based upon users' demographic information; for example, an advertiser for sports equipment may choose to market snowboards to younger users and golf clubs to older users. In another example, the advertising content may be assigned based upon users' geographic location; for example a regional chain of restaurants may choose to advertise only to users who live in that same region.


The advertisement system's usage tracking feature, noted as feature 285, monitors the reports that are returned from the computer device, and can use this information to tailor the assignments of advertisements. For example, the usage tracking feature may detect that a particular user clicks through a high percentage of ads for automobiles, and can respond by delivering to that user a greater ratio of advertising content for automobiles or auto accessories.


Enabling/Disabling System


FIG 3 enabling, disabling functions flow chart

Apple's patent FIG. 3 is a flow chart that illustrates an exemplary method of operations (300). For example, the operations can be performed on the computer device of FIG. 2. These operations relate to the presentation of advertising content and the enabling/disabling of a function in the operating system.


In some implementations where the computer device is an iPhone or iPod, the user may be prompted to press a certain button or keypad key in order to confirm that they are paying attention to the ads being presented. In one implementation, the approaches for verifying user presence can be made progressively more aggressive if the user has failed a previous test. For example, after the user fails the test the first time, the subsequent tests can be made to appear more frequently or at varying times. As another example, the test(s) can be made more subtle so as to render them more difficult to perceive, such as by reducing the size of a message box on the screen, or by making an audio prompt more similar to the advertisement in which it is inserted. If the user fails the test in step 314 the method 300 can perform step 310 over again; that is, the entire advertisement can be played again while the operating system maintains the function(s) in a disabled state.


In step 308, it is determined whether the user takes an extension. The user has the option to delay the presentation of advertisement content by using the available time extensions. For example, in a desktop computer, the user can select one of the controls 215 to choose to watch the advertisement content immediately, or to delay the presentation by using the available time extensions. 


At step 312, the user has chosen to use a time extension and extra time is granted. In implementations of the method 300 where the user is allowed to accrue time extension credits, this step may also deduct credits from the users' total amount of accrued time extension credits. The method 300 then proceeds to repeat step 304.


Buy Time and Opt out of Ads Option


In FIG. 2 above, you'll note step 320. In this step, it is determined whether the user chooses to pre-buy usage time. For example, the user may volunteer to watch the presentation of additional advertising content in order to accrue time extension credits. In another example, the user may have an option to pay a fee in exchange for the temporary or permanent advertisement-free use of the computer device. If the user chooses to pre-buy time, then the extra time is granted at step 312. Otherwise, if the user opts not to pre-buy time, then the method repeats at step 304.


Apple credits CEO Steven Jobs, Freddy Anzures, Mike Matas, Gregory Christie and Patrick Coffman for patent application 20090265214, originally filed in April 2008.


Apple's patent FIGS. 4A through 4-D noted in the introduction depict exemplary screen shots of presenting advertisements in a user interface.


Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application and/or grant is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application and/or grant should be read in its entirety for further details. For additional information on any patent reviewed here today, simply feed the individual patent number noted above into this search engine. To read this report in another major language, use Yahoo! Babel Fish




A commenter from Alaska thinks that the idea is "disgusting."

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