Every now and then, an article pops up which argues that it would make sense for Microsoft to offer a free, ad-powered version of Windows. “We are all aware that Google is the king of online advertising. Microsoft has wanted to compete in that space forever, which is why giving away Windows 7 makes so much sense,” Business Pundit argues, “Let’s look at the numbers; Microsoft’s operating systems are on 90% of the world’s computers, or roughly one billion machines. That’s penetration on a massive scale. Even Google has to be impressed.” While these articles make some valid points, they rarely dive into the actual details.
I remember reading somewhere, some time ago about scientists working for NASA who regularly receive proposals for new space craft from what I respectfully refer to as “amateurs”. One of those NASA scientists told an interesting anecdote, about how all of these amateur schematics have a big, white, empty section at the back of the ship, labeled “warp drive goes here” – with no details on that rather crucial little element.
These proposals for a free, ad-powered version of Windows always remind me of these stories from the NASA scientists. How would an ad-powered version of Windows work? Where do the ads go? How long would they appear? Can you click a close button? Are they text-only? Can they use Flash/Silverlight? Can they enlarge my pen1s?
It’s an intriguing concept to ponder, but I’m just not really sure if there is an acceptable, yet profitable way of presenting ads all throughout an operating system. It’s the big, white, empty section at the back of the operating system labelled “ads go here”.
Microsoft’s Windows revenue is at least 50% bigger than Google’s total revenue. So why should they kill one of their biggest cash cows to compete in another (smaller) market?
Btw. What keeps MS from making Windows 7 both ad-supported and non-free?