Microsoft appears to be experimenting with a new type of ads for Microsoft services in the Windows 11 File Explorer. After installing last week’s Windows 11 Insider build 22572, you may have noticed a subtle (or not) ad in File Explorer, as did Windows Insider Florian last week
The File Explorer “ad” seen by Florian was for Microsoft Editor, the company’s intelligent grammar and spelling assistant. Florian tells me that he only saw this ad once, and we have yet to see anything similar in the latest Windows 11 Insider build. Notably, Florian told me that he was already using Microsoft Editor, making this ad somewhat irrelevant for him.
While the scope of this new experiment could be very limited, it’s actually not the first time Microsoft brings ads to File Explorer: The company did so before on Windows 10 with more intrusive OneDrive ads, which users could turn off if they knew where to look.
The launch of Windows 11 last year was the sign of Microsoft’s increased focus on PC users, and there’s no doubt that the Windows team is hard at work on creating a desktop OS Windows fans and general consumers should love. However, the company’s heavy-handed approach to push Windows 11 users to use more Microsoft services could well alienate some users.
Microsoft walked on this very thin line before with the new Widgets Menu, which forces Windows 11 users into Microsoft Edge instead of respecting their default browser choice. Starting this week, Windows Insiders are also about to see trending Bing searches, Microsoft Rewards offers, and more “Search Highlights” in Windows Search, though it will be possible to turn off this feature.
The Windows Insider team keeps repeating that what we’re seeing in Dev Channel builds may or may not end up in a future Windows 11 update, so there’s no guarantee yet that these new File Explorer ads will roll out to a broader audience. Fortunately, some nice improvements for the Windows 11 File Explorer are also in the pipeline, including the much-requested tab support.