Most of us are used to seeing ads on stuff that we get for free, like smartphone and tablet apps or online news websites. But you're probably also used to being able to pay to remove ads, whether by getting the premium version of an app or even upgrading to a new computer that doesn't have so much garbage on it.
As it turns out, this strategy doesn't work so well anymore. That's because companies are starting to put "special offers" all over things that you buy ... and this time, it's not just the usual preinstalled trashware. Here's a look at some of the latest strikes in the war for your attention.
Microsoft: Xbox Music and Xbox Live
Last year's redesign of the Xbox 360 dashboard featured prominent ads, including videos that played automatically, even if you were paying for a $60/year Xbox Live Gold membership. This year, Microsoft introduced its new Xbox Music Pass, which allows you to stream millions of songs to your Xbox 360 or Windows 8 PC. It has an ad-supported free trial mode, which lets you listen to songs (and ads) for free for the first six months before imposing a monthly listening limit.
But according to Neowin.net editor Owen Williams, the ads stay even if you pay $99 per year for the subscription service. On top of that, you can't use Xbox Music on the actual Xbox at all (beyond a 30-day trial) unless you also pay for an Xbox Live Gold Subscription. That's almost $160 per year for two separate subscriptions, and in return you apparently get twice the ads.
Microsoft: Windows 8
If the ads in the Xbox Music service aren't enough, Microsoft has also put ads all over its Windows 8 operating system. Whether you buy a new Surface tablet or you pay for the upgrade from Windows 7 such as through buying a separate boxed copy, you still have to contend with ads in "many of the bundled [Modern] UI applications," according to Williams.
Amazon: The entire Kindle lineup
Amazon began selling Kindle e-readers with "special offers" a while back. These appeared on the lock screen, and replaced the normal screen saver, which was more literary.
When Amazon announced its new lineup of Kindle Fire HD tablets not too long ago, it turned out that every single one of them had advertisements. Not just on the lock screen, but now even in a corner on the home screen while you're browsing through your books and apps.
At the time, Amazon wasn't offering any way to get rid of these ads on the new Kindle Fire HD, but the company now gives people the option to buy Kindles sans ads for an extra $15. That won't help you with in-app ads, though, if you use free apps.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.
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