MICROSOFT HAS RESPONDED to eagle-eyed members of its Insider Programme who spotted what appears to be advertising in the Start Menu of the latest 'Fast Ring' build of Windows 10.
Sure enough, a Microsoft spokesman confirmed to The INQUIRER: "We will continue to offer Windows Ads in Apps on Windows 10. Beyond that, we do not currently have plans for advertising in Windows 10.
"Lock and Start content is programmed by Microsoft to help customers learn and discover new features and apps to enhance their Windows 10 experience; app publishers are not paying to be featured."
We reported already that Windows 10 Build 10565 includes a number of fixes including integration with Skype and Uber, but it now appears to be holding a slightly less welcome addition.
A report on Betanews first raised the ogre that users are starting to see Suggested Apps in the newly restored Start Menu. Yep. Ask for Start Menu back, get Start Menu back, get adverts. The 'suggestions' are, of course, based on your previous purchases from the Windows Store, to where the links lead.
Microsoft's confirmation has confirmed that the content is limited to the lock screen and start menu and the firm will naturally tell us that we can switch it off (right click and you can block all further ads from this advertiser, or all advertisers) so (in Microsoft's projected opinion) it's case closed. But it appears that the 'new groovy open' Microsoft has found yet another way to quietly inflict its will on the public with an unwelcome auto opt-in without asking first. We get it, we really do - monetising is the new rock and roll. But surely the operating system should be sacred?
So we can stop reaching for the ad blockers for now. This only affects people who have opted into the Insider programme but not opted out of the 'suggested apps' ... ahem ... feature.
But, will you tolerate this? Two months ago we ran a story about how Windows 7 and 8 users were having their hard drives clogged up with dormant Windows 10 update images which they hadn't asked for. Just about everyone went ballistic, and to date we still haven't got a straight answer to our questions about the repercussions.
Now it seems that the overwhelming keenness to get everyone upgraded as quickly as possibly may be down not only to a reduction in fragmentation in the Windows market, but because Windows 10 is seen as a potential goldmine for a new revenue stream. The scales may be about to fall from our eyes, more so. C'mon, Satya. You and us. In a room. Half an hour. Give us some answers.
Advertising in Microsoft stock apps is, of course, not entirely new. For example, the company bundled a Starter Edition of Microsoft Office with Windows Vista which used an ad-revenue model, but this was in the days before big data and advertising had become so entrenched and insipid, and personal data was something that we had a right to expect, not an assumption to be suspicious of.
Plus, of course, we know that Android and iOS apps work this way. But just as when Google started including advertising in its stock apps, it appears that a line may have been crossed and the price of Windows' much heralded 'free upgrade' may be about to manifest.
Meanwhile, the original Updategate story has taken an new and alarming turn. Update shortly. µ
Though it's not exactly an even playing field
Biz machines offer of Intel CPUs and AMD or Nvidia graphics
Thermal throttling is hampering the overclockable chip's performance
Firm is making its Lightning port even more locked down