Microsoft needs Windows Phone 7 to be a success when it launches later this year. Calling it an "ad-serving machine" is not going to help Microsoft sell many Windows Phone 7 devices.
Even though advertising pays my bills, I can't stand ads. Ads on mobile devices are even worse. They are intrusive and get in the way of content. The end effect is a ticked off user. That's why I am concerned about remarks recently made by Microsoft about its nascent smartphone platform.
"(WP7 is) an extra move on our NUI (natural user interface). We're trying to get technology out of the way of people," said Kostas Mallios, Microsoft's general manager for Strategy and Business Development, speaking to marketers and advertisers. "For consumers, what this means is basically seamless experiences, seamless social connectivity – not just about applications, obviously about the phone, obviously about media. For marketers ... this is actually turning out, in my view, to be an ad-serving machine. It basically enables advertisers to connect with consumers over time."
An "ad-serving machine"? That sounds horrible. That sounds like Microsoft believes Windows Phone 7 isn't about offering people tools they want in a device, but about placing a screen in front of them to serve ads.
According to Mallios, Microsoft will allow advertisers to send push notifications to peoples' devices through a new platform called Toast. Toast will serve ads to the devices much the same as Apple's iAd will serve ads to iPhones. Advertisers will even be able to push ads to phones even when the application isn't running. The ads will drop down from the top of the phone's screen to let users know there's an offer. Again, that sounds horrible to me.
The ads will be served on Windows Phone 7's tiles, which are the new framework Microsoft is using to present apps, content, etc on WP7. "What you'll see is that there's actually a message on that tile," Mallios said. "So that tile is actually a dynamic tile that you're now able to push information to as an advertiser, and stay in touch with your customer. It's a dynamic relationship that is created and provides for an ongoing dialog with the consumer." What this means is, of the perhaps dozen tiles you'll be able to see on the Windows Phone 7 home screen, one might be an ad. A phone's home screen is where the user's content goes, not an advertiser's.
Yeah, we're entering Nightmaretown. Don't do it, Microsoft. If Windows Phone 7 is going to be all about how you can create ad revenue for yourself, you can count me out.