This is an interesting bit of information. According to a recent book titled Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success, Steve Jobs wanted to launch an ad-supported version of Mac OS 9 back in 1999.
Basically, the advertisement would pop up, and everything would be interrupted as the user is forced to read/listen/watch an advertisement. This isn’t ideal for most, and many of us would probably hate this. However, this was 1999, and perhaps Apple wanted a way to penetrate the computer market by offering a free version of their OS.
This takes me back to the days of NetZero and Juno, when they were both free. They were browsers that had a huge banner ad across the top (or was it the bottom?). Either way, the browsers were free, but they were ad-supported. The report points out that this was a time when many services were ad-supported, so an OS may have made sense back then.
A patent application published in 2009 further supports the report. It cites Steve Jobs as the main inventor, and describes an OS that features advertisements.
It never materialized, but it’s interesting that they thought about doing this at one point.
You can check out the full report at Ars Technica, which interestingly enough, also makes a mention of Juno and NetZero.