Apple patent reveals ads and ePaper plans

The future sure is getting even more like Minority Report

apple patent reveals ads and epaper plans

Apple builds ecosystems, and it does so incrementally. Now it intends transforming your daily newspaper and pumping intelligence into billboard advertising, a patent reveals.

Daily papers?

Patently Apple puts it like this: "Apple Surprises us with an Exciting Invention Revealing a Next Generation Digital Periodical Device using Flexible Displays" (Link).

In very basic terms it describes a flexible OLED display capable of showing multimedia, such as news, magazine, or any form of visual/audio content. This can act either as a magazine or as an electronic billboard. Patently Apple explains more, but I thought it worth noting how it might be deployed in conjunction with other Apple solutions (and potentially made by LG).

Target Amazon

It seems obvious this idea could be Apple's direct response to Amazon's Kindle. There's no way the executives at Cupertino are pleased Amazon beat them up over agency book pricing, and Apple and publishers are surely eager to compete to get some power back.

It seems inevitable iBooks and Newsstand will want to jump into other logical form factors beyond the iPad and iPhone. The time to make that jump is close: 43 percent of us have read an eBook, or part of an eBook, on their phone, while 72 percent of US eBookworms are devouring more titles this year than last, claimed fresh data from Publishing Technology Research last night. The numbers would be higher except readers crave a "better user experience". Such as Apple's "periodical device"?

The notion of flexible electronic paper isn’t new, of course -- it was yet another invention that came out of Xerox PARC in the '70's and even made it into Minority Report.

What about billboards?

Low power electronic billboards that could easily be updated with fresh content could open up access to high street advertising for smaller vendors, but there's opportunity beyond simple ads updating using Apple tech, iAds and iBeacons.

I can imagine personalized ads being made available without anyone's privacy being violated.

You see, Apple doesn't keep information about its users, but your devices do, just not in a format that others can get at.

Private in public

Imagine your device has learned what you like. When you march through a mall or other public space we already accept iBeacons can send us contextual information that matches our preferences.

Now imagine one of these Apple billboards is in the location. We know there will be a crowd there, so it makes no sense for billboards to offer unique ads aimed solely at us, but it may make sense for anonymized information about what the crowd likes to be analysed on the fly in order to generate billboard ads that might most appeal to the kind of people in that gathering at that time.

This may sound far-fetched but it is theoretically possible using iBeacons, boosted (for example) by big data analysis systems from IBM.

Incremental disruption

This kind of enterprise-focused solution may well create brand new business for Cupertino inside the retail sector. I admit I do find it a little creepy, but Apple gets the omnichannel and this is the direction in which the world is moving.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “Imagine enterprise apps being as simple as the consumer apps that we’ve all gotten used to. That’s the way it should be.”

With this in mind, Apple's opportunities to create usable solutions that enable it to enter new markets are huge, so long as it takes time and care assembling the building blocks (and figures out how to make it easy for iOS 7 owners to upgrade to iOS 8 without deleting content or using iTunes).

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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