September 12, 2018

Why is Microsoft Pushing Edge so Aggressively?

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Today, some users using a pre­view ver­sion of Win­dows noticed some­thing strange when they tried to install Chrome or Firefox. Win­dows would hijack their installer with a warn­ing, proclaiming, “you already have Microsoft Edge – the safer, faster browser for Win­dows 10.”

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Win­dows is per­plexed and clearly annoyed. Sure, if you must, you can bypass the warn­ing and install Chrome, but why won’t you just use the safer, faster browser?

This is bizarre to be sure, but this isn’t the first time Microsoft has tried — aggressively — to get users to use Edge. Cur­rent­ly, users run­ning Chrome get noti­fi­ca­tions about the woes of Chrome (it hurts bat­tery life) and won­ders of Edge (it’s built for Win­dows 10, what­ever that means).

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So all this begs the ques­tion, why does it mat­ter what browser peo­ple use? Why is Microsoft forc­ing Edge on everyone?

Microsoft, the Services Company

In the past, Win­dows and Office were cash cows and they basi­cally ruled the company.

Nowa­days, not so much. Microsoft wanted every­one on Win­dows 10 so much that they gave it away for free, then extended the free period because peo­ple were still using Win­dows 7, then extended it again. As for Office, it’s all sub­scrip­tion-based now, and unless you work in a company that buys into the Microsoft ecosys­tem, you’re prob­a­bly not using Office, you use Google Docs instead. So Microsoft just wants to get every­one to use their services.

How is this related to Edge? Accord­ing to Microsoft­ers (Mi­crosoft­ies?) I talked to, the com­pa­ny’s inter­nal met­rics show that peo­ple who use Edge use more Microsoft ser­vices (OneDrive, Office, Out­look, etc). This means that to get more peo­ple on Office 365, Microsoft has to get them to browse the web with Edge.

Correlation and Causation

In sta­tis­tics, peo­ple throw around the phrase “cor­re­la­tion does not imply cau­sa­tion” a lot and it’s very use­ful. For exam­ple, ice cream sales and the rate of drown­ing deaths seem to have a direct rela­tion­ship. As ice cream sales go up, more peo­ple drown. This would imply that ice cream causes peo­ple to drown, but obvi­ous­ly, that’s not the case. But for other con­texts, say, an increase in Edge usage and more adop­tion of Microsoft ser­vices, that can be harder to ascertain.

I haven’t seen Microsoft’s inter­nal met­rics, so this next part is pure speculation.

Does Edge really increase adop­tion of Microsoft ser­vices? I strug­gle to see the direct line between some­one using Edge and some­one buy­ing an Office subscription.

My sus­pi­cion is that there is no direct causation — one does not cause the oth­er. Rather, peo­ple who use Edge are less-savvy users who stick to the defaults and ser­vices rec­om­mended to them (in this case, Microsoft ser­vices). This means that these peo­ple aren’t using these ser­vices because of Edge, but because they use what­ever Win­dows tells them to use.

So, does repeat­edly pes­ter­ing Chrome and Fire­fox users to switch to Edge result in more Office sub­scrip­tions? Prob­a­bly not. These users are more savvy and make their own deci­sions on which ser­vices to use, so blindly push­ing Edge on users is most likely not productive. Probably unproductive.

You should also check out:

Jon Bell on Defensive Microsoft

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