The concept of advertising-supported services are nothing new. Magazines that you buy and television shows that you watch are largely subsidized by advertising. Even the web publication that you're reading now is supported largely through advertising (thanks our wonderful sales team who leaves editorial completely independent).
But what about ad-supported software? That's also nothing new, as some of the free software we use today on our computers feature ads in some form. Apple could be exploring uncharted territory with an ad-supported operating system.
In a patent originally submitted last year, Apple details a system where ads are presented to the user of the operating system. Unlike ad-supported applications, the ads are pervasive throughout the OS. The end result could end up being the ultimate nag ware, but the tradeoff is an OS that's at a reduced cost or completely free.
The abstract reads:
Among other disclosures, an operating system presents one or more advertisements to a user and disables one or more functions while the advertisement is being presented. At the end of the advertisement, the operating system again enables the function(s). The advertisement can be visual or audible. The presentation of the advertisement(s) can be made as part of an approach where the user obtains a good or service, such as the operating system, for free or at reduced cost.
Macnn has some diagrams that show that it may be possible for users to control when the ads display, along with the option to delay them. Crafty hackers would probably find a way to disable ads altogether, but such an ad-supported system could lead to more affordable public internet terminals and kiosks.