Setting the tech world abuzz, Apple has filed a patent that would let consumers buy its products on a low- or no-cost monthly plan — as long as buyers sign up for an operating system requiring them to interact with ads. The proposed "enforcement routine" technology would freeze users' iPhones or computers if they fail to click a button or answer a test question to prove they've obediently heeded the advertising. Rotten idea?

"Enforcement" will alienate Mac fans: Everything about this technology seems so "antithetical" to Apple's user-friendly philosophy, says Randall Stross at The New York Times' Digital Domain blog, that it's hard to believe co-founder Steve Jobs even knew about it. Yet, there's his name, listed first on the patent.
"Apple Wouldn't Risk Its Cool Over an Ad Gimmick, Would It?"

Obligatory ads might be tolerable on an iPhone: "I'm not interested in a Mac with this 'feature' under any conditions," says Jeff Porten at PC World, "but offer me an iPhone with a free monthly plan? Maybe. Just maybe."
"Apple Applies for Patent on OS With Embedded Advertising"

If this patent becomes reality, hackers will happily destroy it: Apple is known for its bulletproof security, but enforcement routine software "would encourage serious under-the-hood chicanery," says Chris Dannen at Fast Company. The "holy grail" of hackers everywhere is a "subsidized but ad-free Mac" – and they'll be a step closer if this technology is rolled out.
"Apple Tries to Patent Ad-Supported, Subsidized Mac OS"

Apple must make the benefits outweigh the irritation: Such an advertising approach might just work in time, says Christian Zibreg at, if Apple can follow Google's success in making advertisements relevant and useful. We already rely on ads to keep Facebook, Gmail, and other online services free: "If such an ad-supported business model makes the Internet tick, it might work with desktop software, right?"
"Welcome to the new Apple: Free toys in exchange for adverts"