Microsoft: You get ads! You get ads! You get ads!

February 3, 2023

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Microsoft is heavily focusing on ads now by pushing its different products and services to its customers. Aside from promoting its recently-launched Microsoft Store Ads, there are reports from different Microsoft customers saying they experienced pushy Microsoft 365 trial and Windows 11 upgrade ads on their computers with no direct buttons for turning them down.

Placement of an ad for Contoso Suite within the Microsoft Store
Microsoft Store Ad placement for the Contoso Suite app

Microsoft seems to be working a little extra these days in promoting its products. On Thursday, it reiterated the introduction of its Microsoft Store Ads through another blog post, which encourages developers to promote their apps. As Microsoft puts it, “Microsoft Store Ads was designed to help developers grow their business by getting their apps or games in front of the right customers at the right time.” Specifically, the Redmond company promises to put the app ads “in the Microsoft Store app on Windows within search results and the Apps and Gaming tabs.”

While it sounds like good news to developers and businesses who want an easy way to boost their creations, it could mean a downside to the search result experience of customers. Like in other platforms, being presented with suggested ads instead of the specific item you are searching for is always frustrating. With this, it is interesting to know how Microsoft would use the new system to help developers while keeping the customers happy with their search experiences.

In recent reports, however, Windows customers already expressed their frustration about Microsoft after experiencing intrusive ads for its Microsoft 365 trial and Windows 11 upgrade. The latter is no surprise as the software giant continuously encourages Windows users to embrace the latest OS version. In January, it announced that it would start automatically updating consumer and non-managed business devices using Windows 11 21H2 (Home and Pro editions) to Windows 11 22H2. However, recent reports from some Windows 10 users showed Microsoft’s move being more annoying this time.

Windows 10 PC showing a full-screen Windows 11 upgrade ad
Windows 10 PC showing a full-screen Windows 11 upgrade ad

In a now-deleted Reddit thread (Ghacks via Neowin), a photo of a Windows 10 computer was shown featuring a Windows 11 upgrade ad in full screen. It read, “Now Unlocked: You’re eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 11.” There were two buttons the user could use to respond to the ad. The problem about the two, however, was that both were suggesting installing the update now or later, and the only way to refuse was through the nearly unnoticeable “Keep Windows 10” link at the bottom of the screen.

Windows 10 preventing me from booting into desktop without first non-consensually being forced to accept their free trial and $100 monthly thereafter (obviously I cancelled after but WTF Microsoft) from Windows10

While the incident above sounds infuriating enough for some, others reported a more intrusive ad from Microsoft recently. According to another Reddit thread, different Windows 10 users encountered a very aggressive ad from Microsoft for its Microsoft 365 trial. Unlike the Windows 11 upgrade ad, where there was a direct button to refuse (though locating it seemed tricky), this ad completely blocked users from accessing their desktop unless they clicked one of the two buttons that would only ask them to enter their credit card information either way.

In a video shared by a Reddit user, the ad can be seen in full screen and reads, “Access granted: We’re giving you a free trial of Microsoft 365 Family” during the Windows Out of Box Experience. There are two buttons for the users to select: “Try for free/Next” and “No, thanks.” However, when the user in the video selected the latter, the screen proceeded to ask the user to “Confirm your payment option,” with the page only having one button to start the trial.

“Windows 10 preventing me from booting into desktop without first non-consensually being forced to accept their free trial and $100 monthly thereafter (obviously I canceled after but WTF Microsoft),” the user said, describing the experience.

According to those who encountered the same ads, they were able to leave the pushy page by canceling the trial after giving their credit card information to avoid being charged $109 per month.

Some believed the case was an accident or caused by a bug. Microsoft still hasn’t commented about the incidents. Whatever the reason for the pushy ad was, nonetheless, Microsoft certainly has the clear intent of making its services and product promotions more visible to Windows users. In a recent Windows 11 Dev Build 25290, the company even rolled out a test for two different treatments to the system’s Start menu, showing suggested actions for users. Specifically, the badge asks users to back up their files using Microsoft’s cloud service.

With all of these moves, it seems impossible not to encounter a single ad in any section of Microsoft’s ecosystem in the future. But will these advertisements really help Microsoft boost its products and services (and, of course, sales), or will they just produce more infuriated, inconvenienced customers?

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