Apple, What Are You Up To?

appleWord comes today that Apple has applied for a patent for an “enforcement routine” that will force viewers to see commercials on various devices. And when I say force, I truly mean force.

The patent application indicates that the forced-advertisement will freeze a device until you indicate that you’ve actually read/responded to the ad (through the use of clicking a box or answering a test question). This technology would work on any device with a screen, including televisions, computers, media devices, cell phones, etc. The ads can appear at any time while the device is being used.

What the patent application calls the “enforcement routine” involves administering periodic tests of the user, like displaying a pop-up box within the ad, requiring a response (a button that must be pressed within five seconds before disappearing) to confirm that the user is paying attention.

These tests then become progressively more aggressive and difficult to confirm if a user has failed a previous test. The response box can be made smaller and smaller, requiring more concentration from the user to find and press to confirm they are reading/responding to the advertisement. There may be a need to press various keyboard combinations, enter a date, or type in the name of the advertiser as commanded, to demonstrate that the user is paying attention.

Of course, Apple does not think this is nefarious in any way. They are saying that having this type of forced advertising would allow devices to be sold for lower prices or even be given for free, and that to avoid the advertising, simply paying a fee should free up your device from the forced advertising.

This whole thing feels like a 180 turn from Apple’s usual business practices, at least in my mind. It certainly doesn’t endear me to Apple products and services, that’s for sure. What Apple, and many other businesses, fail to accept and embrace is that the business model is changing. This type of George Orwellian behavior is not appreciated nor desired by users. I have seen plenty of intrusive “free” services that only frustrate me and keep me from using them in the first place (“free wifi” in the airport, anyone?).

If you want me to “see” advertising, then make it compelling. Make me want to watch it. But the minute you start forcing me to watch it, you can almost guarantee that I won’t be buying whatever that product is. Like an elephant, I have a very long memory, and I will not forget. That can’t bode well for any advertiser’s long-term future.