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Steve Jobs' Idea For an Ad-Supported OS 255

Posted by timothy
from the hey-it-works-for-broadcast-tv dept.
milbournosphere writes "It looks like Steve drew up an idea for an ad-supported OS. A patent was filed back in 2009 detailing how it was done. From the article: 'Rather than charge the normal upgrade price, which in those days was $99, he was thinking of shipping a second version of Mac OS 9 that would be given away for free — but would be supported instead by advertising. The theory was that this would pull in a ton of people who didn't normally upgrade because of the price, but Apple would still generate income through the advertising. And any time an owner of the free version wanted to get rid of the advertising, he or she could simply pay for the ad-free version. Steve's team had worked out the preliminary numbers the concept seemed financially sound.'"
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Steve Jobs' Idea For an Ad-Supported OS

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  • Mac OS 9? (Score:5, Informative)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:07PM (#39809885) Journal
    Forum post says Mac OS X. I don't think he'd get many takers for Mac OS 9, even if he was giving it away without ads.
    • Re:Mac OS 9? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anubis IV (1279820) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:51PM (#39810639)

      The news post says Mac OS 9 if you read it. The patent displayed OS X-specific stuff, but the idea was originally conceived back in the late '90s. They simply didn't patent it until much later, and by then it made sense to show it within the context of Mac OS X.

      I'm surprised this is coming around again now, since it already made the rounds in Mac circles back when the patent was filed back in 2009, but a lot of these sort of fluff stories are circulating after the new Steve Jobs book debuted today. It's not really much of a story, since Apple is known for filing patents on every little thing they think of, the vast majority of which never come to fruition. For example, devices resembling laptops and iMacs that lack a display but have a slot in the side where you can insert a tablet-like device were patented a number of years back, even before the iPad existed.

  • by DontBlameCanada (1325547) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:07PM (#39809893)

    That's a classic bait n' switch. How usable would an OS that pops ads all the time be? What if, after installing, they upped the ad frequency etc? Would the ads be embedded or fetched over the network? Could you downgrade to your previously legally obtained, ad-free, OS without losing all your work?

    This isn't an Apple bash or even a Steve Jobs bash. That idea is pure, unadulterated, marketing evilness.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:19PM (#39810101) Homepage

      From TFA:

      Jobs envisioned the ad-supported version of Mac OS 9 displaying a 60-second commercial from a "premium" company at startup, with the ads occasionally being automatically swapped out for new ones over the Internet.

      Sounds like it'd be pretty darned usable, and I personally wouldn't notice much, since I reboot once every few months (usually due to moving cords or power failure)

      • by Pope (17780)

        You'd be rebooting at least once a day with MacOS 9, even at the best of times you'd get memory fragmentation that resulted in not enough contiguous free memory to use. A real PITA, but it's what we had back then.

    • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@@@gmail...com> on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:25PM (#39810213)

      How is it bait and switch if the choices are very clear up front?

      It's no different to the current model offered by a lot of software, especially in the mobile space, where a paid-for ad-free app exists in parallel with its almost-identical free version that only differs by showing ads. The only difference I see is that it applies to the whole OS instead of just a single app.

      It's also similar to the TV model - watch the show for free over the air with ads in the middle or wait and buy the DVD.

      As a marketing tactic it's pretty run-of-the-mill.

    • Ignoring your personal speculation about increasing the ad frequency, how is this a bait-and-switch?
    • How usable would an OS that pops ads all the time be?

      My paid-for OS does pop-ups now.

      Every few seconds, an animated window pops up to interrupt my thoughts and inform me another piece of spam has arrived in my inbox, that Java needs its next upgrade, or Adobe reader or flash needs to install a critical security upgrade with tiny print allow me to opt-out of installing another free toolbar on my browser, by default...if I'm careful about picking my upgrade options to avoid the installation of still more unwe

  • dumb idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:08PM (#39809911) Homepage
    Nothing cheapens a product like plastering it with ads even if you can get rid of them by paying.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by avandesande (143899)

      like Slashdot.....

      • by Tarlus (1000874)

        Slashdot gave me the option to remove ads, even though I've never paid them a penny.

    • Re:dumb idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:11PM (#39809965)

      As the owner of an ad-supported Kindle, I couldn't disagree more. The only ads are at the bottom of the main menu screen (where all of the available books in your library are listed) and the "screen saver". Totally unobtrusive.

      • As the owner of an ad-supported Kindle, I couldn't disagree more. The only ads are at the bottom of the main menu screen (where all of the available books in your library are listed) and the "screen saver". Totally unobtrusive.

        Well, I have the same kindle but without the adds. I've heard the adds only show up on the main screen, not while you're actually reading a book. How can you be sure Jobs intended to use a similar method of unobtrusive adds?

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Because he was smart when it comes to knowing peoples behavior.
          If you interfere with peoples work, it would fail.
          Put it on the background, and a screen saver, it's not in anyone's way.

          I mean, you could be right, but watching stave jobs for 30+ years, I don't think it's likely.

      • It's not that expensive in the first place so while I'm sure it's not the worst thing in the world it's something I prefer not to have. Perhaps one of the only bad things to come out of the internet and the freeness of everything is people are more accepting to have their lives invaded by corporations. I'd rather demand a decent wage than get free stuff.
    • Nothing cheapens a product like plastering it with ads even if you can get rid of them by paying.

      See the Kindle for a concrete example.. Every time I go to my parent's house and see their Kindle sitting there with a Visa ad on the front, it makes me feel nauseous.

      • Re:dumb idea (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cpu6502 (1960974) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:29PM (#39810321)

        >>>see their Kindle sitting there with a Visa ad on the front, it makes me feel nauseous.

        Wow.
        You're weird. A still photo of the Visa card makes you sick??? Ridiculous. Besides the ads are actually more entertaining than the non-ad version (boring & very repetitive screensavers of authors). At least the ads gave me ~$70 on initial purchase, plus another $10 in free gift cards.

        Advertising has also given me ~40 years of free television, 30 years of free talk or musicradio, free webpages instead of paypages, cheap $1 magazines, and so on. Free is better than spending ~$5000 a year to get the same level of service. (IMHO)

        • Advertising has also given me ~40 years of free television, 30 years of free talk or musicradio, free webpages instead of paypages, cheap $1 magazines, and so on. Free is better than spending ~$5000 a year to get the same level of service. (IMHO)

          It makes me sick because I see the future. The difference is that the Kindle advertising was always on. Even when you weren't reading. This is different than your TV, where you accept ads intermixed with the content. You shut off the content on your TV, and the ads go with them. Extrapolate the Kindle model to one where every connected device with a screen in your house is displaying advertising all the time that it has power. You're getting dystopian at that point.

          • by Cinder6 (894572)

            Ever seen a magazine? Their ads are persistent. They don't even need power!

            • You put a magazine away. Magazines don't update periodically and draw your attention. Ever seen a refrigerator with an LCD screen on the front? Now, imagine that you can buy a fridge that displays ads on the front all the time. Annoying, animated, flashing ads. And that fridge is $30 cheaper than one that doesn't display ads. Now, imagine your landlord is replacing all the fridges in your apartment complex. Which one do you think he's going to buy? Are you ready to break your lease to get away from
            • If you leave it open and on a page that is showing an ad. Otherwise it won't.
          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            >>>The difference is that the Kindle advertising was always on.

            Ahhh so it's like the magazine I have laying on my desk with its giant Marlboro ad "always on". Or my Alfred Hitchcock book with an ad for some play being advertised on the back.

            Yeah. Things really started going downhill 100 years ago. What's the world coming too? Things were better in the 1800s when we didn't have magazines or books w/ ads.

            >>> every connected device with a screen in your house is displaying advertising al

      • by smooth wombat (796938) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:40PM (#39810475) Homepage Journal
        it makes me feel nauseous.

        To quote Sheldon:

        You also made a common grammatical mistake, you said nauseous when you meant nauseated. But go on.
      • by mspohr (589790)

        A Visa ad makes you nauseous?
        Do your parents have any newspapers or magazines sitting around the house?
        How about one of those new-fangled TV thingies?

      • by geekoid (135745)

        If it makes you feel nauseated, then see a dr. There is something wrong with you. It's a picture of a credit card.

        I suspect slashtarditis.

        frankly, you can turn off the kindle .

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      It's worked for TV. And radio. Even the internet (netzero). Sure I could pay ~$300 a year for three channels (BBC1,2,3) like my cousins overseas, but why? I get 40+ channels completely free and let the corporations carry the burden of operating cost.

      Ditto radio. Ditto internet. Even my kindle comes with ads (reduces cost by about half).

      Of course there are also examples where it failed, like the "paid-to-surf" companies, but they never provided anything of value for most people.

      • You don't have to pay for TV in other countries. In fact you can watch the BBC without a licence thanks to the internet and yes in some cases ads aren't *that* bad but where ever possible I rather pay for things and keep the advertising out of my life. I'd rather work on getting a better wage than having free crap.
        • by mspohr (589790)

          In Switzerland everyone has to pay an annual TV and radio fee. The UK also has a mandatory TV and radio fee (even if you watch on the Internet).
          Wouldn't be surprised if other countries had it also.

          • by xMrFishx (1956084)
            Mandatory what? It's not mandatory. If you don't own a TV and don't stream Live shows on iPlayer (BBC's streaming service), you don't need a TV license. Also as far as I know, you don't need a radio license. Checked wikipedia on that, abolished in 1971 for radios. If you watch BBC iPlayer tv post-broadcast time, you don't need a license. Anyway, I'll take the BBC any day over most American ad-infested overpriced channels.
          • I moved to the UK and I'm watch 'Once upon a time in America' on my 40 inch TV and I don't have a TV licence and it's legal. I don't watch TV through the TV (it's set up even so it can't pick up free channels) and iplayer doesn't require a licence even if I thought of watching something on there. It happens that I don't care for iplayer either but if I wanted to it doesn't require a licence. It's only lice streams that require a licence.
        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          >>>you can watch the BBC without a licence thanks to the internet

          True.
          Americans spend about $2 a year to sustain PBS, which is annoying enough, but at least it's cheap. I can't imagine having the government hit me with a ~$300 bill every year just to see BBC. The channel isn't even that good. (Like TNT or Syfy, there are 1-2 good shows and about it.)

    • by msauve (701917)
      "Nothing cheapens a product like plastering it with ads even if you can get rid of them by paying."

      Unless it's paying for the ads. Really, if someone's going to wear "Abercrombie" across their chest, the shirt should be free.
      • I'd agree and wouldn't wear anything Abercrombie myself but the idea of buying an expensive computer and then having ads popping up because I upgraded the OS just doesn't make sense. Sure I can understand Jobs was more concerned with keeping people up to date whether it be for their good or to stop having to support older operating systems but a Macbook isn't NetZero or something like that. It just wouldn't be right.
    • Nothing cheapens a product...

      Well, duh. Ads make the price cheaper, that's why they do it. It's actually a good thing until they decide they can get away with charging you AND blasting you with ads. (Time Warner, I am looking at you.)

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Charging for cable is for the service, not the show.
        Why you people think otherwise is beyond me.

        • My bill went up AND they're showing more ads. Why you would think the only reason I could possibly be unhappy about that is if I don't understand how it works is beyond me.

  • Bad summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by broken_chaos (1188549) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:10PM (#39809957)

    The summary is confusing and inaccurate. The patent was filed in 2008 (not 2009), and the reference to MacOS 9 was referring to a piece in a book ("Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success" by Ken Segall, according to the linked article) that suggests that the idea for the patent originated in 1999 (not 2008 or 2009) with Steve Jobs -- back when OS9 was heading towards release, making the reference to OS9 actually make sense.

    All this gleamed from clicking the sole link in the /. post, spending 15 seconds skimming it, and having a very basic knowledge of recent OS history. Proofreading, please?

  • Advertising is wrong (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's come to this? Advertising permeating everything we do because it in some way makes what we're doing more affordable?

    We all pay the cost of advertising. The fact that the majority of the Web is ad-supported is depressing.

    • by Altus (1034) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:29PM (#39810293) Homepage

      I suppose you would rather pay cash for every web page you visit?

      • I suppose you would rather pay cash for every web page you visit?

        Holy fuck yes.

        If there were a system that efficiently and anonymously let me pay ~0.01 cents per web page viewed I would take that in a heart beat. User targetted advertisements are filling the role of micropayments but they come with all kinds of hidden costs. Civilization would be much better off if the net were not so utterly dependent on the advertising financial model. I'm not saying eliminate it, I'm saying we need alternatives.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          except it would be 3 cents a website, min. Probably closer to 50 cents if current successful pay model are any indication.
          1 penny per 100 sites. Ha!

          Pyus it's bandwidth, not site, so it's more like to be a charge per KB.

          your post is like saying "I wouldn't mind commercials if the where 1 second long.
            Of course you wouldn't, but that won't make any money.

          We went throgh all this 15 years ago. Nothing new has changed the operating cost significantly.

          • Forest and trees.
            The exact rate isn't really all that pertinent to the discussion.
            But 3 cents per pageview is a $30 CPM which is practically unheard of.

  • cat patent.txt | sed -e 's/ad-supported/Chineese Water Torture/g' > /dev/null
  • by future assassin (639396) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:14PM (#39810025) Homepage

    There were companies in the late 90's and early 2000 that were doing this with PC's and free internet. How soon we forget. Eudora or Opera anyone?

    • Mod plus 1000, software patents suck.

      Seriously, the first thing I thought was, "Didn't Opera do that?"

    • References here [cnet.com] and here. [crn.com]
      • I was working at an ISP at the time and fuck did I have a lot of support calls from people who tried the free dialup and all it did was fuck their computers right up. Got to love the customer blaming you for dial up not working while their computer is infested with free internet software.

    • There were companies in the late 90's and early 2000 that were doing this with PC's and free internet. How soon we forget. Eudora or Opera anyone?

      What's more, there were companies giving away candy iMacs in exchange for just this sort of thing. Oh, but I'm sure Steve Jobs thought of it at least two days before they did....

  • by Lexx Greatrex (1160847) * on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:16PM (#39810053) Homepage Journal
    1. Put adverts in OS
    2. Call it an "upgrade", not adware
    3. Patent it
    .
    .
    4. Threaten all add supported software makers with lawsuits (planned)
    .
    .
    5. Make unfathomable wealth by not actually inventing or even implementing anything (goal)
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:20PM (#39810127) Homepage

    Back in 1999, there was freepc.com. [tweney.com] They didn't just give away the OS - they gave you a whole computer. Applications could only use a 640 x 480 area of the screen, which was a common monitor size back then. But FreePC shipped with a bigger monitor and display card. The rest of the screen was devoted to ads.

    Like most web sites today. And phones. And tablets...

    They were just ahead of their time.

    • by Carrot007 (37198)

      > 1999
      >640 x 480 area of the screen, which was a common monitor size back then

      Bah. Kids.

      This size was common in 1994 maybe.

      1024*768 was pretty much the standard in 1999. Though a lot of idiots may have ran at 800*600 no one ran at 640 * 480 unless they were still running windows 3.0!

    • Not really... Even back in 1999, 1024x768 on a 17" flat screen CRT was the most common screen resolution.

  • by Cro Magnon (467622) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:22PM (#39810157) Homepage Journal

    Everytime I turn on my Mac, I get that picture of an apple.

  • It would only be a matter of time before we have to pay AND see ads in the OS.

  • My problem is the tray apps and services that are unavoidable that turn my machine into an advertising platform.

  • by rastoboy29 (807168) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:29PM (#39810319) Homepage
    except for the "patented" part.
  • As in, there is no prior art for giving software away for free (or for a reduced price) based on forcing the user to view the occasional advertisement?

    I am surprised Apple isn't using this "patent" to go after the ad-supported Kindle in an effort to get the upper hand in content (especially after Apple's smack-down on price fixing for e-books)....

    • As in, there is no prior art for giving software away for free (or for a reduced price) based on forcing the user to view the occasional advertisement?

      I am surprised Apple isn't using this "patent" to go after the ad-supported Kindle in an effort to get the upper hand in content (especially after Apple's smack-down on price fixing for e-books)....

      It's just an application, and is still in examination . The claims have also changed significantly from as originally filed.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      It's the technology to do that that would be patent.

      You can have two pieces of software, both as support but they way it's done is completely different. Their could be two patents.

  • If i remember right, some obscure company tried something like this with a Linux laptop where you got the middle of the screen to yourself, and the border was filled with ads

    It was a bad idea and it failed.

    However, if you look at the average persons 'browser' these days with all the tool bars and popups, its almost like we are doing it now anyway..

  • Google already did it. They don't advertise on the OS, they just take all your information and sell it to advertisers. Same family of stupidity, I suppose.

  • what a genius!

  • no joke we did that pre dot crash free os free pc free internet all ad supported. . but then the net economy crashed ads became worthless and all the programs failed.

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