When I first heard that Bing ads would become a standard in the new Windows 8.1 Smart Search, I was a little disappointed. But then I remembered that when I use a browser based search engine, I sometimes already see these ads. So while it may seem odd that there are ads in an OS-driven query, it is not something that we can’t get used to. When conducting a web search, the ads don’t usually take up the whole screen. This means that, normally, you don’t have to scroll horizontally to find the most relevant search result.
To understand what is going on, you have to have a little background on the new Windows update. The new Windows 8.1 Smart Search pools all of your search results into one cohesive results page, which includes results from other apps like SkyDrive, Bing web search, and the Video and Music Apps. By doing this, the new Windows search app is very helpful and versatile. Yet for those coming from non-Windows computers or tablets, which have more text based searches, the stream of information coming at you might be a bit overwhelming.
Since Google is clearly the dominant search engine, I am not surprised that Bing has placed ads within millions of PCs in hopes of offsetting the skew toward Google. The Bing ads are tied closely to the Microsoft operating system, since they are primarily found in the Bing search app. Unfortunately, because the ads are incorporated into the context of the app, traditional ad blocks will not block those pesky ads. This raises the question of what will Bing do with our search data? Will they package this data and sell our IP addresses to interested companies? This action could then result in spam mail and even more unwanted ads.
In a recent support phone call to Microsoft, I was told that while Bing was the default search engine used by Smart Search, I could use any other search engine like Google or Yahoo. Though it was still unclear if the Smart Search would favor Bing as the primary search engine, over other third party alternatives. Which brings to mind the 2001 U.S. vs. Microsoft Corporation trial, where Microsoft got in trouble for monopolizing the browser world by bundling Internet Explorer in their OS. Is this the same mistake happening again?