Last November, Brad Sams from Thurrott.com wrote about Joe Belfiore's return to Microsoft after his one year sabbatical. At that time it was reported that Belfiore would be working on the Windows Shell team and one of the tasks they had was to figure out ways to monetize the Windows 10 User Interface.
Well it appears that one possible method the team has come up with to monetize user activity in Windows 10 is to tie premium content into first party apps, specifically for now the Photos app, and that connection to the premium content comes by way of being an Office 365 subscriber.
On one of my devices that is in the Windows Insider Release Preview Ring running Build 16299.15, it was just released to that ring yesterday in fact, also received an update to the Photos app.
The first time you open this update of the Photos app, the version/build number is 2017.39091.14210.0, you will see a new dialog introducing premium content for Office 365 subscribers.
Once you try to access premium content in the creation process an app named Photos Add-On (Internal) with a version/build number of 2017.35081.16750.0 will be installed automatically through the Windows/Microsoft Store. I believe based on my testing it is this app that integrates the premium content.
I was not asked to validate my Office 365 account in this process but the Microsoft Account I use on this system is also the same one that I subscribe to Office 365 with so it likely picked up the validation from the account listing in Windows Settings>Accounts>Sign-in Options.
A couple of observations about this method of monetization in Windows and the Photos app:
-- First, as Ed Bott has reported today, this Photos Add-On (Internal) app is installed when the user attempts to access premium content and apparently is the key to activating the premium offerings. However, Microsoft should have communicated more clearly what this app is and why it was being installed at that time. It would have calmed many users concerns as they discovered it installed on their systems.
-- Second, I have no issues with this style of monetizing in Windows 10. If you are an Office 365 subscriber you get some additional benefits to work with and those who are not on Office 365 still have a very wide selection of effects and music to work with in the Photos app at no additional cost.
Microsoft has not announced anything officially about this and it could very well be a quick experiment to gauge reaction like they did several weeks ago when the Photos app went through a few quick name changes in a test period.
The gallery here will show you how the premium options were presented and accessed in the Photos app. Note: Premium music and 3D effects content is marked with the Office 365 logo.