/ #technology

Why is Microsoft Pushing Edge so Aggressively?

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.”

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—aggressivelyto 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).

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.1

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.2 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 causationone 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

  1. Win­dows and Office teams used to fight a lot. If you ever meet an older MSFT employee at a par­ty, ask them for Win­dows vs Office stories. 

  2. For a list of funny cor­re­la­tion not cau­sa­tion exam­ples, check out this website