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7/16/2007
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Microsoft Patents May Hint At The Future Of Windows

One patent application details advertising software that uses applications and data on a computer to provide context for and trigger advertising.

In two patent applications filed this month, Microsoft may be foreshadowing future Windows features, including updates to the taskbar and ad-supported versions.

The first patent application, filed on July 5, details advertising software that uses applications and data on a computer, rather than the Web, to provide context for and trigger advertising. "Web-based advertising is limited to targeting based on a user's interaction with a webpage or search application in communication with a portal or search engine," the patent application notes.

Overall, the software is like adware that figures out what ads to display based on files on the hard drive and what's being displayed on the screen at a given moment. The advertising software, which could be part of the operating system, a standalone app, or an application feature, would use information gleaned from documents, music, computer status messages, and e-mails as context for ads. However, the software could conceivably gather information on every file on a user's hard drive and send it to advertisers, and the application does little to assuage security and privacy concerns.

The second application, for "a method for managing windows in a display," was filed July 13 on behalf of a team comprised mostly by members of a Microsoft Research group that focuses on user interface, and could be an update to a project known as GroupBar that can put taskbar icons into different groups and take image snapshots of those applications at certain points in time.

The patent application, which describes technology it calls "clipping lists," would create a sidebar or taskbar containing tiled information on a number of applications. Instead of just showing an icon and label that says Mozilla Firefox, as the taskbar currently does, the "clipping list" could display detailed information about what tabs might be open there and any alerts Firefox sends to the computer, like when a file has finished downloading or an update is available online. Items in the list might change color based on the current state of the application, say to turn red as a video downloads from Firefox. However, instead of an application automatically showing up in the taskbar, it would only show up if minimized or selected in some way by the user.

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