Apple's filed a patent on a design for a device that won't let its owner use it unless that person demonstrates that she has complied with an advertiser's demands by paying attention to an ad and taking some action indicating her dutiful attention.
It's amazing how many of these vendors fail to understand Chekhov's first law of narrative: "A gun on the mantelpiece in act one is bound to go off by act three." That is, if you design a device that is intended to attack its user -- by shutting her out of her own files and processes against her wishes and without her consent -- someone will figure out how to use that device to attack its user.
Or as Mitch Kapor once quipped, "Architecture is politics." Designing your device ecosystem for 1984 gives you...1984.
Cue Apple Fanboys who want us all to understand that the infallible and immortal Steve Jobs would only use this power to show us lovely, interesting, and informative messages that we're happy to receive in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1....
Its distinctive feature is a design that doesn't simply invite a user to pay attention to an ad -- it also compels attention. The technology can freeze the device until the user clicks a button or answers a test question to demonstrate that he or she has dutifully noticed the commercial message. Because this technology would be embedded in the innermost core of the device, the ads could appear on the screen at any time, no matter what one is doing.
The system also has a version for music players, inserting commercials that come with an audible prompt to press a particular button to verify the listener's attentiveness.
The inventors say the advertising would enable computers and other consumer electronics products to be offered to customers free or at a reduced price. In exchange, recipients would agree to view the ads. If, down the road, users found the advertisements and the attentiveness tests unendurable, they could pay to make the device "ad free" on a temporary or permanent basis.
(via Warren Ellis)