Become a MacRumors Supporter for $50/year with no ads, ability to filter front page stories, and private forums.


macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

Back in late 2009, an Apple patent application surfaced showing that the company had explored ad-supported operating systems, with the user receiving free or discounted goods or services in exchange for viewing the advertisements. The patent application, which was filed in 2008 and shows ad integration in Mac OS X, was notable for listing Steve Jobs as the lead inventor.


As Ken Segall reveals in his new book, Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success, the idea did indeed belong to Jobs, although he initially considered implementing it for the 1999 release of Mac OS 9.
Rather than charge the normal upgrade price, which in those days was $99, he was thinking of shipping a second version of Mac OS 9 that would be given away for free - but would be supported instead by advertising. The theory was that this would pull in a ton of people who didn't normally upgrade because of the price, but Apple would still generate income through the advertising. And any time an owner of the free version wanted to get rid of the advertising, he or she could simply pay for the ad-free version. Steve's team had worked out the preliminary numbers the concept seemed financially sound.
Jobs envisioned the ad-supported version of Mac OS 9 displaying a 60-second commercial from a "premium" company at startup, with the ads occasionally being automatically swapped out for new ones over the Internet. He also visualized the use of contextually relevant ads, such as an Epson printer ink ad being displayed when the user's printer was reporting that it was low on ink.

Segall was not in favor of the idea, but left that meeting under the impression that Apple was going to proceed with it as the TBWA\Chiat\Day team begin thinking about the premium companies it could target for high-quality advertising. But for whatever reason, Jobs and Apple ultimately decided to scrap the idea.

But while the genesis of the idea indeed appears to lie with Jobs, it is still unclear why Apple decided nine years later to file for a patent on the idea, whether it was due to a serious reconsideration of the idea or merely a tying up of loose ends that saw the company attempting to protect one of Jobs' ideas that had already been discarded.

Article Link: Steve Jobs' Idea for Ad-Supported Operating Systems Was Nearly a Reality


macrumors 65816
Mar 20, 2011
Glad it didn't become a reality, and I hope it stays that way.
Last edited:


macrumors 604
Aug 2, 2002
Cork, Ireland.
Yuck. Although if it were released today, the ad mechanism would probably be hacked and disabled within weeks if not days, so it wouldn't make much difference.

By comparison now, we get a hell of a better OS for under 30 euros, without adverts. I know which one I'd pick.


macrumors 68040
Jan 5, 2012
I'm sure Steve Jobs could have sold it to us... but it seems like a price to pay, having ads.

They don't want to make a £500 MacBook because they'd rather make good products that cost more, yet this was considered? A crapper version of Mac OS 9 / 10 just to support people unwilling to spend $99?

Then again, they did release the Mac Mini as a slimmed-down Mac for £500.


macrumors 6502a
Mar 28, 2009
Living Stateside
I would much rather pay $99 for an operating system than be faced with advertisements all the time. Thank you for not implementing this apple. It would have been supremely annoying.

In the spirit of 100% transparency I did gloss over this part (my bad):
"And any time an owner of the free version wanted to get rid of the advertising, he or she could simply pay for the ad-free version."
Last edited:


macrumors 6502a
Aug 28, 2007
In 1999 that implementation could have been the death knell of Apple.
Not to mention all the beautiful animated GIF ads we would have seen.



macrumors regular
Aug 28, 2011
Great minds often come up with non-sensical ideas because their brains never fully shut off...


macrumors 6502a
Aug 28, 2007
I would totally buy a car that had a 50% discount but slammed on the breaks every 60 seconds whilst playing elevator music.


Small White Car

macrumors G4
Aug 29, 2006
Washington DC
For a free OS...meh.

But if they wanted to do this for some sort of half-priced hardware...well that has merit. I don't they can make that much money off of ads, though, so I don't think it would ever work.

And I would certainly never do it, regardless. I'm just saying, if there was a $300 Mac Mini that played ads, there are certainly folks out there who would buy that.


macrumors regular
Jan 3, 2003
I would much rather pay $99 for an operating system than be faced with advertisements all the time. thank you for not implementing this apple. It wold have been supremely annoying.

While I completely agree about my willingness to pay to avoid ads, we don't know what options Apple was considering. It's entirely possible that they were planning to always offer this side-by-side with the standard OS. So, people who want to avoid ads can pay up front, but people with less money who have a willingness to watch ads could do that--essentially it would just expand their potential user base, much like the thousands of iOS apps that have free versions with ads right next to a pay version without ads for a few bucks.

But yeah, ads on my OS would annoy the hell out of me, but for those it wouldn't, more power to them.


macrumors member
Jul 5, 2006
Have to remember the business climate of 1999, companies like NetZero were flourish with ad-driven services, Apple probably figured it would be easy to pick up some extra cash following that model and drag people into the future since when their computer didn't run OS 9 as well as it had run OS 8 and they liked the extra features that it brought they would look for a new Mac which would also include OS 9 without ads as a bonus. Win-win.


macrumors regular
Sep 10, 2009
I think Apple should sell this patent to Google. They are the ones who deserve it.

When was ChromeOS announced? This may very well be the reason why they patented it. Advertising is Google's bread and butter, implementing ads into an OS is something maybe Apple thought Google would try in ChromeOS.


macrumors 6502a
Feb 16, 2011
Ads are so annoying. Our entire life is littered with them. Mail...cold calls/telemarketing, our phone apps, email, billboards. Our web useage is being tracked and data sold to advertisers... there have been proposals to put ads inside airplanes on the seats, and now built into our computer OS? Sigh.



macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
He once said Apple is most proud of the things they didn’t ship.

I’ve never felt more proud of Apple than I do today :eek:


macrumors G3
Feb 26, 2011
New England, USA
The last thing I want is the riff raff owning Macs ;).

Correct ^^^

The next thing you know the boobs would want a dumbed down, easy to use, no-tech-knowledge-required system. :rolleyes: :D

As for ads...I'd rather pay. Better yet, as mentioned in earlier posts...just hang on to that patent, put it in a vault, and lose the key.:)


macrumors 65816
Aug 7, 2007
Iowa, USA
I would much rather pay $99 for an operating system than be faced with advertisements all the time. thank you for not implementing this apple. It wold have been supremely annoying.

And so you could have done just that (paid $99), as the article states, and enjoy your desired experience. What's the problem?
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.