Although lawmakers and consumers tend to eye Google suspiciously, a cross-platform ad technology from Microsoft that spans the phone, the PC or tablet, and the Xbox would be able to build a profile arguably more comprehensive than Microsoft's competitors.
Although Microsoft would like users to buy Windows 8 and its IE11 browser, Net Applications puts IE10's share in September at 19.43 percent, versus 12.78 percent for Chrome. And while Windows Phone's 3.2 percent share among U.S. smartphone platforms in August pales to the 51.6 percent share owned by Android, Microsoft dominates the console market, and neither Sony nor Nintendo offer a phone or desktop browser. What this all means is that at least some percentage of users will use IE, a Windows Phone, and the Xbox.
The latter platform will become increasingly more important as Microsoft rolls out the Xbox One, which already will supply an Internet Explorer browser and supplemental data, such as fantasy football statistics, to make viewing an NFL game more enjoyable. It's not hard to believe that Microsoft could push a "click-to-call" discount ad for the local Domino's Pizza during halftime of the local football game, using the One's built-in Skype technology, plus its knowledge of a user's location and the user's preferences.
If that indeed is the case, will users see that as a terrific feature? Probably. Consumers seem to be willing to trade their privacy for a measurable benefit.
We don't know what Microsoft plans to do here, nor whether this technology will move to market in any meaningful way. But the model is clear: offer a set of services so compelling that users treat it as a necessary crutch, not as an optional benefit to dip into when the mood strikes them. As our devices become ever more sophisticated, so do the revenue streams that subsidize them.
Updated at 12:11 PM PDT with a statement from Microsoft and the IAB.
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