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Apple seeks OS-jacking advert patent

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Apple has filed a patent application for an intrusive ad-presentation system that requires users to acknowledge adverts before getting on with their work.

The recent patent filing carries the unusually straightforward title "Advertisement in Operating System." The described system would be buried deep in a device's OS - so deep that, in the words of the filing, "the advertisement presentation can in effect 'take over the system' in relevant aspects for a limited time."

The filing specifically describes the system as "disabling" normal operation of a device while the ad is being presented. The ad - either "visual or audible" - could be presented in a window on top of all other open windows, in a background window, or even in an application window or "inserted in content from an application program."

If we're deciphering Apple's patentese correctly, this mean that you could be working in, say, Photoshop, and a new canvas could pop up containing a mouth-watering illo of some tasty treat from Frito-Lay - and you couldn't get back to work until you somehow acknowledged the ad by, for example, clicking as directed.

Or, for that matter, since an ad could be "inserted in content from an application program," you could be merrily coding along in BBEdit when a couple of lines appeared in your code suggesting that you investigate Travelocity's latest package deal - and you'd not be able to complete your job until you, as suggested in the filing, performed one of many possible actions.

These actions might result in the system "causing presentation of a page from an advertiser associated with the advertisement; recording a user rating of the advertisement; again presenting the advertisement; sharing the advertisement with another user; initiating a transaction for user purchase of a product that eliminates the presentation of advertisements on the device," among other possibilities.

As is usually the case in such filings, the range of possible devices is a long one, "including without limitation, portable and desktop computers, servers, electronics, media players, game devices, mobile phones, wireless devices, email devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs), embedded devices, televisions, set top boxes, etc."

The appearance of servers on that list is particularly troubling, seeing as how their inclusion might imply a network-based version of ad delivery and enforced response.

If you really want to get your conspiratorial juices flowing, remember that Apple has filed a series of patents relating to location-based content. Using its OS ad system in tandem with another recent filing, Apple could interrupt your use of Poop the World as you passed your local purveyor of fine toiletries to let you know that you could pop in and save big on three-ply tissue.

Although it boggles the mind that Apple would take such a draconian approach to ad delivery, the authors of this particular patent filing are listed as "Jobs; Steven; et al." Clearly, the man has ads on the brain.

Note also that Apple is said to be taking a deeper interest in ad-serving technologies. For example, Bloomberg reported on Saturday that the ever-talkative "people familiar with the matter" told it that Apple had been in acquisition talks with AdMob, the mobile-advertising supplier that Google bought last week for $750m.

Apple is not the only operating system vendor displaying an interest in acquiring a piece of ad-revenue pie. Microsoft is also providing ad opportunities that are now available as downloadable desktop themes, but that may soon extend to Windows 7 borders and sounds, gadgets, and IE 8 add-ons that would send users to an advertiser's website. ®

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