Microsoft test ads in Windows Start menu

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Microsoft has been experimenting with integrating advertisements into the Windows Start menu, a move that has sparked discussions and reactions among users. This initiative involves displaying prompts or "treatments" that encourage users to sign up for a Microsoft account (MSA) and highlight the benefits of doing so, such as backing up the device, personalizing security settings, and accessing data from anywhere. These prompts also advertise Microsoft 365 and offer free cloud storage for signing in. The testing of these ads, or "badging" as Microsoft refers to them, began in November 2022 and has continued into 2023. Some users have already seen these notifications after installing Windows 11 preview updates or security updates. Microsoft is rolling out these new "treatments" with Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 23435 to users in the Dev Channel, which is a testing ground for new concepts and user feedback. It's important to note that features tested in the Dev Channel may not necessarily be released to all customers or may undergo significant changes before general release. The ads have been described as "new treatments" and are part of a "badging" expansion for users logged into local accounts. The list of prompts being tested includes messages about the benefits of signing in with a Microsoft account, using Microsoft 365 for free, personalizing security settings, and accessing free cloud storage. Microsoft is also reportedly working on adding an option to disable these Start Menu ads from the Windows 11 Settings app. This feature was discovered by a Windows enthusiast and is expected to be available under Personalization > Start, allowing users to opt-out of "account-related notifications occasionally in Start". The introduction of ads in the Start menu has been met with mixed reactions from users. Some see it as an intrusive way of promoting Microsoft's products and services, while others are more accepting, viewing it as a trade-off for not having to pay a subscription fee for the operating system. The company has previously included ads for various Microsoft products, including Microsoft Editor, in the File Explorer app and has promoted its Microsoft Edge web browser in the Windows 10 Start Menu. Overall, Microsoft's testing of Start menu ads is part of a broader strategy to promote its services within the operating system, and the company is seeking user feedback on these new approaches.
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