• Will Apple's "iAd" Lock iPhones Unless You Watch Ads?

    Many consumers are fans of Apple's devices, and have forked over large sums of money for them, making the company extremely profitable. Like all businesses, though, Apple is always on the lookout to make even more money, and so the next move for the company may be a mobile advertising platform to be called "iAd," according to a report in Online Media Daily. While this may make Steve Jobs even richer - and take his war with Google to DefCon 4 - it may make iPhones and iPads literally prisoners of their ad content, as hints from recent Apple patents suggest that they're developing a way to lock your device unless you watch the ads.

    Apple has been looking to get into the mobile ad business for some time. The company lost a bidding war for mobile ad giant AdMob last year with Google, which is already dominant in the mobile advertising field. So Apple snapped up Quattro, the mobile advertising developer, in January for nearly $300 million. Time, CBS Interactive and Visa use Quattro to deliver ads for their mobile websites, and a report by IDC said they made $21 million last year for about 7% of the mobile ad market. Apple and Google are both playing hard for dominance in the mobile ad market, as ads - rather than app sales or subscriptions - are increasingly seen as the way to make money off the rapid growth of mobile web-browsing devices. After all, as the financial services firm Morgan Stanley has predicted, by 2015 more people will access the internet using mobile devices than on desktop computers.

    So Apple is, according to the report in Online Media Daily, working on what it calls a "personalized mobile advertising system." The new "iAd" platform is supposed to be rolled out to advertising execs on April 7th, right as the first iPads get into people's hands. The ad system, which has reportedly been described in typical Steve Jobs style as "revolutionary" and "our next big thing," will be based on Quattro's architecture, and may include location-based marketing. In this scenario, iAd would be able to push ads for local businesses using your iPhone or iPad's GPS. This theory is bolstered by Apple's new guidelines preventing any app developers from using the GPS functionality to serve ads, suggesting that Apple wants to maintain control of that for itself. However, as Media Daily noted, since Google recently patented the ability to target ads based on the location of a mobile device, this could take the two companies' ongoing war into the courts.

    But it doesn't stop there. Technology that Apple patented in 2008 would literally turn your operating system off if you don't pay attention to the ads: "to ensure that the user is actually watching and/or listening to the advertisement content, the method can include a step for verifying user presence… the user may be prompted to press a certain button or keypad key in order to confirm that they are paying attention… the approaches for verifying user presence can be made progressively more aggressive if the user has failed a previous test." It sounds so intrusive that no company in their right mind would subject their customers to such a thing… unless, of course, there was good money in it.

    It's possible the patent doesn't have anything to do with this "iAd," of course, as nothing can be known with any confidence until the new system is actually announced. But if users needed one more reason to jailbreak, it'd be the possibility of Apple turning iPhones, iPods and iPads into literally nothing more than mobile advertising machines. We'll have to see how this plays itself out.
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