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April 7, 2018

Windows 10’s Mail app may display an Office 365 ad for some users

by John_A

guteksk7/Shutterstock

Windows 10 devices owners are now jumping on Reddit to complain about an advertisement showing up in the platform’s built-in Mail app. As shown above, it appears as a banner hovering above the Mail, Calendar, and People buttons on the menu stating “Get Office 365.” The only way to remove the banner is to close the menu altogether. 

We loaded up the Mail app, listed as version 17.9126.21425.0, and didn’t see the Office 365 banner. Many other Reddit members jumping into the complaint thread aren’t experiencing the advertisement either. But in our case, we do have an Office 365 subscription, yet many Reddit users aren’t Office subscribers and still don’t see the advertisement in the latest version of Mail. 

That said, Microsoft could be testing the feature with random customers. The move wouldn’t be surprising given that the company advertises its baked-in Microsoft Edge browser on the taskbar and notifications panel if you’re using Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or some other browser. 

Advertisements on Outlook.com are understandable: It’s a free online service, and Microsoft prefers you take advantage of its money-making software suite. But customers are purchasing Windows 10 along with their device, and although all first-party apps are provided free of charge, advertising on paid software degrades the experience and service. We have enough advertisements scattered all over the web. 

“Windows isn’t free. Either you’re paying for it, or the OEM/systems integrator is paying for it,” one Reddit user argues. “Why is there a need to serve ads in a product which isn’t free? The money has already been made — ads are just milking it for more.” 

Google’s platform is different. On the internet, it’s backed by an advertisement system, investments, paid services, and so on. Android and Chrome OS are free, open-source operating systems fueled by advertisements, device sales, app sales, and data collection. Advertisements on free, open-source platforms are expected, like Gmail, not on a paid copy of Windows 10. 

Microsoft’s push to sell Windows as a service seems to be intensifying. Just last month, the company revealed that it is testing a new Mail app feature in a preview build of Windows 10 that automatically opens links in Microsoft Edge. Forget whatever you have set in Windows 10 as your default browser: All links in Mail will be pushed to Microsoft Edge. The company says it’s merely “testing” this feature. 

Microsoft’s in-app advertisement is an interesting turn given the company launched a campaign in 2013 targeting advertisements in Google’s Gmail service. The search engine giant was accused of using an algorithm to scan Gmail messages and generate custom advertisements based on discovered keywords. Microsoft jumped on the Gmail-bashing bandwagon.

“Outlook.com believes your privacy is not for sale,” Microsoft’s Stefan Weitz said at the time. “We believe people should have choice and control over their private email messages, whether they are sharing banking information or pictures of their family or discussing their medical history.” 

That choice and control should also include locking out Microsoft’s advertisements, even Microsoft Store app suggestions, on its paid operating systems. 

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