Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th May 2016 22:52 UTC

Update: it happened again today. Here's the ad, and here's the "proof" it's coming from Word (when you long-press the notification and tap 'i').

It's been a bit of a running theme lately: advertising in (mobile) operating systems. Today, I was surprised by what I consider a new low, involving incompetence on both Microsoft's and Google's end. This new low has been eating away at me all day.

Let's give a bit of background first. On my smartphone, a Nexus 6P, I have Word, Excel, and PowerPoint installed. I have these installed for my work - I run my translation company, and when new work comes in through e-mail when I'm out and about, I like being able to quickly look at a document before accepting it. Microsoft Office for Android fulfills this role for me. This means I don't actually use them very often - maybe a few times a week.

Imagine my surprise, then, when this happened. Yes, I'm linking to the full screenshot in its full, glorious, Nexus 6P 1440x2560 brilliance.

I have a few questions. First, why is Microsoft sending me an advertisement in my notification tray? Second, why is Word sending me an advertisement for Excel? Third, why is this allowed by Google, even though the Play Store rules prohibit it? Fourth A, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already have installed? Fourth B, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already use? Fourth C, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already pay for because I have an Office 365 subscription? Fifth, who in their right mind at Microsoft thought this was not a 100%, utterly, completely, deeply, ridiculously, unequivocally, endlessly, exquisitely invasive, stupid, aggravating, off-putting, infuriating, and pointless thing to do?

I know both Android and iOS suffer from scummy applications abusing the notification tray for advertising, and I know both Google and Apple have rules that prohibit this that they do not enforce, but I didn't think I'd run into it because... Well, I use only proper, honest applications, right? I don't use the scummy ones? I pay for my applications?


I think it's time to start enforcing these rules.

Oh, and Microsoft? I haven't forgotten about BeOS. It's not like you have a lot of goodwill to mess around with here.

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A few things
by galvanash on Wed 25th May 2016 04:39 UTC
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Not that I disagree at all with your overall outrage, but you may be jumping the gun a bit...

How do you know that Word sent that notification? I don't have any evidence either way, and Microsoft could certainly be doing something devious here, but if they are actually following the style guide that notification did not come from Word, it came from Excel itself. It is using Excel's launcher icon, not Words. Using another apps icon like this is a big no-no and I would be surprised if Microsoft was doing that - so I am inclined to think Excel is the app that sent it.

Assuming I am right, and it is Excel that sent it - this is not a violation of Google's Play Store policy. Is it stupid? Sure, no argument. But it is absolutely within their guidelines. Apps can bug the shit out of you to do things that involve the purpose of the app. Sending you a notification to remind you that the app exists, maybe because you have not run it for a while (or ever), is completely within the Play Stores guidelines.

Again - stupid yes, but not necessarily nefarious. You can of course just turn off notifications for Excel (and all the other Office Apps too) - otherwise any app can do stuff like this, as long as it is doing it for purposes of its own promotion (i.e. not promoting other apps).

The rule is:

We don’t allow apps or ads that mimic or interfere with system functionality, such as notifications or warnings. System level notifications may only be used for an app’s integral features, such as an airline app that notifies users of special deals, or a game that notifies users of in-game promotions.

"Analysing data on the go" is an integral feature of Excel. It sending you a notification like this to encourage it's own use is completely compliant with this rule...

Edited 2016-05-25 04:43 UTC

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