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Microsoft working on affordable Windows 11 PCs dominated by ads and subscriptions

Microsoft aggressively shows ads for its services in its own software at times. This primarily includes marketing material for Microsoft 365 and its Edge browser. In fact, the company even showed advertisements for Microsoft Editor in File Explorer on Windows 11, later claiming that it was by accident and never meant to be published externally. Now, it seems like the Redmond tech firm is working on a business model that will rely heavily on upselling Microsoft's services on low-cost Windows hardware through ads and subscription.

A mockup of File Explorer app in Windows 11 with tons of ads
Not an actual UX (...yet)

As spotted by ZDNet, Microsoft has posted a job listing for a Principal Software Engineer Manager recently. In its initial version, it explicitly stated that the company is working on a model that allows the building of "low-cost PCs powered through advertising and subscriptions".

Although the specific wording has now been removed, the listing still clearly emphasizes on exploring cloud- and web-first solutions. It also talks about the "mission to drive cloud first experiences into Windows". The current job description is as follows:

Are you passionate about shaping the future of personal computing? Do you have the passion and experience to build and lead a new engineering team to explore Web and cloud experiences on Windows?

The Windows Incubation team is chartered to explore new concepts for Windows in a cloud- and web-first world.

Our team is looking for an exceptional Engineering Manager to build and lead a talented team of passionate engineers. You will work on innovative Web and platform technologies to prototype and explore new experiences. You and your team will partner with Product Management and Design to ideate and build new experiences aligned with the mission to drive cloud first experiences into Windows, create prototypes to validate early thinking, and use on-going customer data and research to validate our ideas. You will be responsible for defining architectures, engineering plans and processes in your team that drive quality and agility and move the team from ideation to shipping. You will play a key leadership role in defining and promoting an inclusive team culture with the best engineering practices to deliver experiences with quality and customer love. If you are that person, contact us!

Given Microsoft's trajectory when it comes to Microsoft 365 and its role in the overall landscape of Windows, it's not entirely surprising that the company is going down this route. Both Windows 10 and Windows 11 were free upgrades, and the firm typically recoups development costs by engaging people in the Microsoft ecosystem through its subscriptions and other cloud services, with customers paying regular fees to use certain software.

That said, the move is likely to be controversial should it ever materialize. Advertisements in services that you already pay for is bound to rub some people the wrong way and Microsoft will really have to think about how it markets the effort. Some may also draw parallels to Amazon's Fire Phone which was based on the same idea, but ended up being a major commercial failure.

That said, the endeavor should also result in lower cost Windows PCs, which should result in more people being driven to Windows, provided they are fine with ads and subscription plans.

Would you buy a Windows PC at a lower cost if it showed you ads for Microsoft's services or required you to subscribe to Microsoft 365? Let us know in the comments section below!


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