As the New York Times reports today, we have applied for a really nasty patent that describes a way to put ads onto a screen in a way that forces people to watch or listen to them. Is it evil? Totally. Is it true that my name is on the patent, and at the top of the list? Absolutely. Because it’s my idea. Sure, some other people figured out the engineering that makes this all work. But I’m the one who came up with the idea. We were sitting in a meeting and Phil Schiller said, “You know what would be cool? It would be so cool if someone could find a way to put ads on TV in such a way that it would be totally impossible for people to avoid them. Like, imagine if you were watching live sports, and you got up to leave the room when the ads came on, but the TV would just freeze until you came back, and until you watched the ad, the TV would stay frozen. Like, it would shut down. You couldn’t even change the channel, or turn the set off, or anything. You had to watch the fucking ad. So like imagine it’s like the last thirty seconds of the Super Bowl and your team is close to scoring — but you have to watch the ad. Would that not be cool or what?”
I agreed — totally cool. And I turned to the guy who runs engineering, whose name I can never remember, and I said, “Make it so. And put my name on the patent application. At the top.”
The Times guy says he can’t believe we’d really use a technology like this, because in his opinion this technology runs counter to Apple’s image and Apple’s culture. And I’m like, Excuse me? Do you know anything at all about Apple? Which part of forcing people to do what I want them to do is not in keeping with Apple’s culture? I’ve got engineers who wear Invisible Fence dog collars that shock them if they spend more than three minutes in the bathroom. Think about it.
In fact I’m really proud of the work we’ve done on the Evil Ad program. It’s a super elegant design and we’ve done some really amazing things. For example, we can make it so that you have to pass a test and demonstrate that you’ve actually watched the ad — and if you can’t pass, your device freezes. But here’s the elegant part. Once you do pass the test, the device remembers exactly where you were in the song, and starts up right on the same spot. Boom. Perfect.
Also, we can make those tests ever more difficult, so that you really have to spend loads of time doing them when you’d rather just be listening to music or watching a movie. We can make those ads so bad, in fact, that the experience of using the device would be effectively ruined.
But see, that’s the point. We don’t expect anyone will choose the ads. Because, for a very reasonable monthly fee, you’ll be able to eliminate all those ads and get your content free of all nterruptions. How reasonable, you say? Well, let’s say that for $30 a month you could watch all the TV you wanted. Let’s say that we can get all the TV networks, or most of them anyway, on board for this. Let’s say that we give you not just this week’s shows but an enormous archive, one that ultimately includes every TV show ever made. Tear out the cable box, stop paying those assholes $100 or $200 a month, and go with us instead.
Thus Apple now becomes the cable company. And the cable company dies. Yes, friends, another enormous, ridiculous, old-fashioned, greedy, fat, slow-moving, change-averse, stupid industry falls before the power of Steve. Or, as we call it, “Internet + Steve = you’re dead.” We did it to music retailers. Doing it now to mobile phone companies. Why not cable TV? These guys are ripe for a takedown.
For what it’s worth, Hulu could do this too, except they’re owned by TV networks and the TV networks are in bed with the cable operators, so Hulu has its hands tied. Google might make a play for this as well. But they’ll try to do it without charging money, which will never work. Google’s whole world revolves around generating revenue through advertising. And they still think that asking people to pay for something is just a total non-starter because nobody wants to pay for anything anymore.
Truth is, money is the easiest thing to get people to give up. Much easier than asking them to give up their time. Nobody wants to watch ads or futz around with some science project where you have to integrate a bunch of different things and it never works right.
No, what they want is something that’s that’s simple, that just works, and that doesn’t have ads. For this they are willing to spend money. Lots of it. All you do is say, Here you go, Mr. Frigtard, I saved you lots of time and hassle, now all you have to do is give me money. Easy-peezy.
Why do you think people go to the trouble to make money in the first place? They make money because they want to spend it. And once they’ve made money, they need someone to come along and give them something to spend it on. All you have to do is give them something to buy that makes them feel special — like they’re smarter, and maybe even better, than everyone else.
Sometimes I can’t believe we’re the only ones who’ve figured this out. But apparently we are.