Windows 8: Ads and junkware, business as usual

Windows 8: Ads and junkware, business as usual

Summary: Microsoft has reimagined Windows 8 but if the inclusion of ads in apps by the company is any indication it's going to be business as usual for the new OS. Expect OEMs to put reams of junkware on new systems.

TOPICS: Windows

Whether you like it or not, Windows 8 has been totally reworked from the ground up. The new interface, formerly known as Metro, sits side-by-side with the old desktop to provide something for everyone.

With a totally reworked platform one could hope that Microsoft would lean on PC makers to stop the onerous practice of stuffing new PCs with junkware. Junkware, or crapware as many call it, is the collection of apps that few want, preinstalled on new computers to make money for the OEMs. Sadly, the inclusion of ads by Microsoft itself in Windows 8 apps sets the stage for continued junkware on new PCs.

The discovery that some Microsoft apps on Windows 8 contained ads put some pundits in a rage. The feeling that software you pay for should not include ads to make the company money.

"If you accept a few banal ads in Windows 8 for $40, what would you accept in Windows 9 for $20? When does it stop? And why wouldn’t it get worse?" — Paul Thurrott

Colleague Ed Bott correctly points out that these ads are hardly intrusive, you almost have to go look for them to find them. I agree with him that the ads themselves, belonging to a different division of Microsoft that produces Windows 8, are not that big of a deal for the user.

I do believe that the ads are a bad thing for a totally different reason, and that is it sends a signal from Microsoft to the PC makers that anything they need to do to make Windows 8 profitable is OK. That could be ads as in the case of Microsoft, or more likely to continue PC business as usual and include boatloads of crapware on new PCs that almost nobody wants.

I don't think I am alone with the vivid memory of spending hours removing such crapware from new PCs I've purchased. Some preinstalled software is downright intrusive on the new owner's user experience, and sometimes it even slows the computer down. The only good way to deal with it is to remove it which is often not easy and always a pain in the rear.

With a brand new slate it was reasonable to hope that Microsoft was going to lay down the law about crapware to the OEMs. It is my opinion that Microsoft's inclusion of ads in its own Windows 8 apps is a clear sign that junkware is here to stay. Business as usual for Windows, reimagined and all.

As Paul Thurrott aptly puts it, putting ads anywhere in Windows 8 "cheapens the product". I agree with Thurrot and also think it paves the way for the loathsome practice of installing crapware on board new PCs. That really "cheapens the product".

Topic: Windows

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  • Definitely not alone.

    "I don't think I am alone with the vivid memory of spending hours removing such crapware from new PCs I've purchased. "

    Certainly not. I've certainly banged my head on plenty of crapware. I've had worse experiences with crapware than with viruses.

    At least viruses aren't burned into the images used to reinstall the system.

    I'm sure every techie has had to deal with all of that junk.

    "Colleague Ed Bott correctly points out that these ads are hardly intrusive, you almost have to go look for them to find them."

    Ads are ads, though, and Microsoft apparently didn't bother to pay the devs enough to release the apps ad-free. It's still not the best ethics to put ads in a paid product.
    • crapware worse than viruses

      One of the very hard to remove pieces of junk is the Norton Antivirus HP used to bundle with their PCs. Absolute piece of junk and real pain to remove. Unfortunately, as you mention it's burned in the HP's version of Windows.
  • Do as I say, and not as I do

    If the author truly believes that ads are a bad thing, then he should insist to Zdnet that ads not be placed on web pages with his articles - and on the entire Zdnet web site at all. As for junkware installed on Windows 8 PCs: MS insisting PC OEMs not include these apps could lead to antitrust issues. Also, uninstalling Windows 8 apps (including junkware) is a breeze, and leaves no traces of the apps.
    P. Douglas
    • Right on.

      Larry, since One of your senior writers thinks ads are bad, when would we see ZDNet without ads. the ads are making the site cheap and it "cheapens the ZDNet".
      Ram U
    • ZDNet is free

      Well, ZDNet is free.

      Windows is a paid product.

      Lot of people hate "double dipping."

      "MS insisting PC OEMs not include these apps could lead to antitrust issues."

      Not sure I see how. And they do it already anyways - on signature PCs.
      • I hate double-dipping

        ...which is why I game on a PS3.

        You need an Xbox LIVE Gold account to play multiplayer, and to watch YouTube on your box? Nuts to that!

        And why should I pay for an XBL account ON TOP OF what I pay to Netflix to watch it on my console? Whatever happened to the revenue-sharing model?

        So what exactly is a PlayStation Plus account?: it's all about the games. This is what they say in an early blog post about it:

        PS Store Discounts
        Exclusive offers on select demos, betas and early purchases
        Full Game Trial
        Automatic Downloads

        Do you need it to access PSN? Absolutely not!

        Microsoft is going down this slippery slope to double-dip almost every transaction on the Xbox - even with their own services. Want to use music on your Xbox with their Xbox music store? You need an Xbox Music Pass AND an Xbox LIVE Gold account.

        Xbox LIVE Gold truly is The Microsoft Tax(TM).
        • Still access XBL without Gold

          Some options are gold only, some you get with silver.
          I much prefer the XBL setup over it's poorer relative on PSN and for the £18 it's cost me for the year, I'll take the better user experience on XBLG thanks.
          Little Old Man
          • Tell me something....

            what is it that XBL offers in the Gold account that PSN doesn't already offer?

            You want multiplayer? PSN already offers that. You have a contact/buddy list with previous player discoverability (see a list of players you recently met in an online game), avatars, gaming scores, trophies, and you also have the free 3D meetup world called PS Home. You have a web browser that you don't need to pay money for either.

            So what does XBL Gold actually offer you besides that? Please tell me, because I want to know.
          • Sports Apps

            At least for me, NBA Gametime and ESPN are two great additions to XBL that PSN don't have. Another services not available in the PS3 are HBO Go, UFC, Last.FM, among others. But there are some services not available in XBL, like NFL and NHL. Which one is better? At least for me, XBL because, like I mentioned before, NBA Gametime and ESPN works great, and it's even better with Kinect. Still, the PS3 and PSN are excellent services and having access to all without additional charges is a big plus.
        • I hate double-dipping

          That double dip is precisely the reason I haven't gotten an Xbox yet, though I would love the Kinect. Yet, some of Sony's practices - especially in licensing - have me equally turned off of them. If I was chewing up MS bandwidth for services like Hulu or Amazon, that would be one thing, but it's my ISP's bandwidth that is consumed.
      • What contains the ads, The operating system or an App?

        James is making a huge leap in associating OEM crapware with some ads inside a few apps.

        Crapware was intrusive, a general pain in the neck and difficult to get rid of.

        The "problem" with an app can easily be solved. Just use another app.

        I don't like some of the apps or attempts to get users into the MS-Store, but it is hardly comparable to the problem of OEM loaded junk on PCs.
        • An ad is an ad.

          "What contains the ads, The operating system or an App?"

          Doesn't matter. An ad is an ad. Many people won't like it. They won't care about the distinction.
          • I heard that windows 8 apps

            Finance, Weather, Travel, News that come with the OS contains ads.
            Plus skype will contain ads but can't say if windows 8 will come shipped with skype or 3rd party download. HP i know includes skype on windows 8 pcs.
            Anthony E
          • The distinction is worth noting

            An advertisement that blasts across the screen at startup, puts up a nagging popup screen is far different than a couple of apps having a tiny advertisement in the corner.

            James is trying to draw a parallel to the intrusive nagware junk that OEMs would load on their PCs with a couple windows8 apps that can be easily replaced.

            Hardly business as usual.
    • ZDNet isn't paid for

      Microsoft themselves pushing ads in Windows 8 sets a bad precedent for the rest to do the same. Especially paid for apps.
      • You pay for the OS

        You don't pay for the apps.

        "But it's part of the overall cost..."

        And yet they're charging less for the OS than they did for Windows 7. At worst, it might bump up to the normal price.
        Michael Alan Goff
  • whake up

    winows OS 8 or as you call it windows 8 in it self does not have adds. talk to the oems and others. tired to keep hearing this crap. why not tlak about some thing thats not all about apple vers. windows vers android. come this is getting old.
  • Unobtrusive

    "Colleague Ed Bott correctly points out that these ads are hardly intrusive, you almost have to go look for them to find them."

    This is honestly my experience. As a Windows 8 user since release, my first response when this issue hit the Web was, "really? Windows 8 has ads?" I actually had to go in and look for them. That said, I agree, I would prefer an add free platform if it's something I'm paying for. Maybe if we scream loud enough, Microsoft will take a pave from Amazon and let us disable them for a few extra dollars. ;p

    As for the adware issue, I don't feel like that's something we can blame on Microsoft. If we don't want adware, I think we need to tell the OEMs that we're willing to pay a little more, but only for crap-free PCs.
  • Deploying Windows 8 into closed network environments

    I wonder if the inclusion of ads will affect the ability to deploy Windows 8 into networks where the ad servers etc. can't be reached. Does the application software refuse to work if the ads are unavailable? Has anyone e.g. tried a localhosts mapping to block the ads, to find out if the apps don't run as a result?
  • Two thoughts

    1) If you are a tech writer, why are you buying things from box stores as opposed to either building yourself or using companies that don't include crapware (for personal use... I understand for reviewing for your job).

    2) Why does it always come back to his on tech sites? The people that actually are savvy enough to formulate a proper opinion are other going to upgrade an existing machine (no crapware on a fresh install/upgrade) or will uninstall from the start screen, which others have pointed out is two clicks (or a swipe and one press).

    Why is this such a shock when Android phones also come with crapware? It has more to do with the software provider/different assembler than anything else. Wall Street has everyone by their respective man/women-hood. Apple doesn't include crapware, but charges a hefty amount for their devices. The Kindle Fire has ads... a large amount of apps have ads. I don't really see why people make such a big deal. It doesn't stop the average user from buying one product over another.