Windows is Edge

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Just thought I would dump some of my incoherent ramblings on the recent developments in Windows…

 

I believe (in agreement with Paul) that launching Edge from Mail is the just the beginning when it comes to forcing Edge usage in Windows. But I don’t think the Windows team is testing the level of backlash they can get away with or looking to measure how many insiders will notice that their browser choice is gradually disappearing. Rather, I suspect this is likely just another stepping stone in Microsoft’s vision to fully integrate Windows and Edge.

 

Mail is just one app, a curious exception, and as many have argued it is easy enough to look past it. After all, if the mail app were a PWA installed from the store (which would thus undoubtedly be running in Edge), then of course links would open in Edge, as they would within any browser regardless of the system default. Would it be excusable then if Mail were a PWA?

 

Now imagine that Mail, again as a PWA from the store, took advantage of sets and launched your external links in a new tab in the same window. Proceed to browse and open another new tab in sets and, in addition to displaying a list of your recent apps, a list of your recently visited sites is displayed. If it were done cleverly enough, a casual user might not even notice that they were using Edge underneath the entire time.

 

Take this a few steps further throughout the system and the outcome is what I imagine Microsoft’s vision is for Windows and Edge. Sets, while probably a nice productivity enhancement for traditional window management, mainly aims to make all of your windows also tabbed browser windows, that is, Microsoft Edge windows. If I can get a bit cynical, it would otherwise seem be a bit odd that they would go out of their way to develop what is simply a handy feature for mostly power users and nothing else, as if the investment might increase their desktop market share…

 

Why exactly are Microsoft (and others) so obsessed with browser share? Given all the fuss these days about openness and choice, it seems awfully hypocritical that Microsoft and other browser vendors continue to unapologetically harass people to switch in increasingly obnoxious and incessant ways. Why go through all the trouble to annoy their own users and continue to push a browser that most people have clearly made an effort to avoid?

 

There are many subtleties to consider when it comes to Microsoft’s control of the platform, but I don’t think it is simply an issue of moving toward a more closed, secure system. Chrome could surely still be made to work without sacrificing the potential for a more mobile-like, locked down operating system. In fact, it’s Microsoft’s own rules that prevent Chrome from properly existing in the store despite Google’s apparent desire to include it. This is because, looking at the big picture, the browser is much more than just an important component of the system — it could be the future of the OS.

 

If you imagine PWA to be the universal app platform of the future, and plenty of evidence suggests that this is shaping up to be the case, then it makes sense that a browser could someday be considered to be the new OS, at least as far as the user is concerned. Consider the case that a user spends most or all of their time browsing the web and using PWAs in a browser, then the actual underlying OS becomes mostly transparent, if not nearly irrelevant. In Microsoft’s case, this would mean that Google essentially came in with Chrome and stole nearly their entire platform and its strategic advantages right out from under them.

 

Assuming that the browser does become the predominant platform for apps, it is worth asking then, why does browser choice in Windows matter? Choosing to use Windows in this hypothetical eventuality is choosing to use Edge. Microsoft would not be the first OS vendor to enforce this paradigm, of course. If you want to use Chrome, then it may eventually become time to reconsider Chrome OS… And while I’m generally fairly impressed with how far Edge has come so far, if Microsoft does continue down this path, one can only hope that they close the quality gap quite a bit more before they force the hand of anyone that still has a browser preference.

 

Obviously, the reality of this is more complex. Please tell me all about how many hardcore win32 apps you use every day. Seriously though, at least a good portion of this seems fairly inevitable and/or obvious to me and I’m curious what others think. And don’t hate, this is just intended to be harmless speculation and observation ;). Clearly software companies are taking browsers and PWAs very seriously and no matter how you look at it, Microsoft has a single-digit share in that right now. If PWAs are half of what some think they’ll be, it is understandably in Microsoft’s best interests to leverage the control they have to try not to be completely left out of the next (and possibly final) big app platform… (again).

Comments (38)

38 responses to “Windows is Edge”

  1. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    I use a mix of Windows and Linux, Windows exclusively at work, Linux for the most part at home including working from home.

    The MS Office suite is the only set of Win32-exclusive programs I use daily. Everything else I use is available under Linux but not UWP. Details: Excel, Access, Outlook, Firefox (portable, I cheat and use it at work rather than IE11 under Windows 7), GNU R, Notepad++, Windows Script Host/VBScript, and Python (not a lot).

  2. Avatar

    Lauren Glenn

    I tried to move back to Edge after Chrome started sucking down CPU time without any reason why. It turned out there was some resource issue where it was running out and I guess it kept trying to do garbage collection to get more (like many Java programs do, I guess).


    I found that many times (in Edge) that links would just not go anywhere, sometimes pages would not change when they should have.... basically it felt "muggy".... like they were trying to do more than I wanted them to and they just kept getting in the way of the experience.


    In the end, after a reboot, Chrome is back to normal and it is giving me snappier performance on my web pages and everything else. And for any page not Edge compatible that may be old, I'd have to use the option in Edge to open it in IE instead of having a compatibility mode like IE does....


    Not sure what they're doing with Edge but maybe it's just time to realize that after IE6 that IE has really never been the same since.

    • Avatar

      VancouverNinja

      In reply to alissa914:

      Strange that you would have these issues as we don't have any issues as you have detailed in your post; odd I would say.

      • Avatar

        Lauren Glenn

        In reply to VancouverNinja:

        Sorry I didn't fully document screenshots and give web pages for people who can't actually fix the problems. :)


        I just used it and sometimes I'd click on links and they wouldn't navigate or they would after a while. It was very sluggish and inconsistent. I'd switch tabs and on occasion, it wouldn't render the new tab on the screen. The whole thing felt like my web experience was being weighted down by bloated and non-optimized code. I switch back to Chrome after a reboot and things just work without much frustration. Anything that doesn't view in Chrome can get an IE extension (IETab) and those pages open up in a container in the tab.


        If it works for you, that's fine. I gave it a try and decided that IE really has been broken since Microsoft decided to update IE 6 into IE7. They haven't really fixed the problems since or given me a reason to go back at all.

      • Avatar

        Paul Thurrott

        In reply to VancouverNinja:

        This kind of thing is curiously common with tech: Someone points out an issue they have. Some will agree. Some wonder why they're complaining about something they're not seeing.



  3. Avatar

    Hassan Timité

    If windows is Edge, then Windows is doomed [/sarcasm]

    Seriously Edge performance is awful and this web browser is close to be a disaster !


  4. Avatar

    Winner

    I think part of Edge is to wrestle control of the browser market from Google.

    Part of it is just jealousy and part may be practical. They can track you and control your activities better if you are running their browser. And they would weaken a competitor if their users didn't use Chrome.

    The typical Microsoft behavior is to do what is best for them, not for their users. Users might want Chrome, but Microsoft wants you on Edge -- and to weaken Google. This is about their market position.

  5. Avatar

    RR

    I am not seeing these complaints about Edge. I use it like 90%+

    There are still a few websites that appear incompatible, I run into that maybe ~2 to 3% of the time. Typically that happens when some sort of authentication is required or something else beyond ordinary. I think that amount of incompatibility is way too much, since for the average person once they switch to something else why not stick with it, so that would be a very valid complaint. The real problem of Edge is Microsoft's recurring original sin, throwing stuff out at the beginning that are pedestrian to terrible, and fixing as they go along. Maybe that can work when you were are virtual monopoly, but it is a recipe for slow decline, when you have active competition.

    • Avatar

      Tony Barrett

      In reply to RR:

      'throwing stuff out at the beginning that are pedestrian to terrible' is the whole point of as-a-service. You can throw any old junk out the door - as MS have - and just patch it later via a never ending round of enormous updates. The entire user-base essentially become unpaid beta testers, with the 'Insiders' thinking, for some strange reason, they're being treated differently. Win10 doesn't resemble in any way how Windows used to be developed. MS actually used to have a QA department - now they don't bother.

  6. Avatar

    SocialDanny123

    Agreed, I think this is what Microsoft is setting up for with Windows Sets, Windows and Edge. I imagine all things that Sets runs including Win32 apps with a stock titlebar and of course all PWAs and UWPs will default to Edge. The user won't care because it only adds a new tab to the titlebar making it much more seamless. So don't be surprised if Office, File Explorer etc will basically become Edge default.

  7. Avatar

    Jason Liao

    This is an very intelligent post. Yes, the browser is almost the operating system. I recently started to write latex documents on a web-service and I have been so impressed by how good it is. I do not need to install any tex system (huge system) and I can work on any computer.


    I depend on R and R-studio for living. Microsoft in fact has an enhanced version of R that integrates with Intel math library. I do not know how hard it is for Microsoft to convert that into a Store application. It would be a huge win if they can do it because upgrading one version of R to the next is not a pleasant process.


    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to Jason_Liao:

      I agree completely about MSFT's version of R, R Open. If it's as simple to package desktop software as MSFT or some of its advocates claim, then it past time MSFT should have shown how it's done with R Open. Things preventing doing so could include poorer database connectivity. Whatever, I figure MSFT has very good reasons for not doing so, but that implies packaged desktop software isn't as usable as would be ideal.

  8. Avatar

    Jason Liao

    By the way, sets is already changing the way I do my work. I use Virtual Desktop but the experience is not good. The biggest problem with Windows virtual desktop is that different desktops are not completely separated. I am often thrown to a different desktop when opening a new app and I am then totally confused.


    I will ditch virtual desktop when sets is more mature.

  9. Avatar

    Paul Thurrott

    I'm on-board with this. Microsoft told me when it was plotting Windows 10 Cloud (then S) that over 50 percent of all activity on Windows happens on the web. It's probably higher now. So Edge is very much core to Windows 10. And regardless of real-world usage of the app, that rendering engine is core to the apps platforms overall too. Even more so as PWAs happen.

    • Avatar

      Lauren Glenn

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      I'd embrace PWAs if I can see one that I knew was a PWA and got some use out of it. There's some Chrome option to have it use PWA for some sites and I swear that I couldn't tell that it was a PWA vs a regular web site. I don't know much about PWA but no one has shown me something that makes me see that it's a PWA vs. just a program that displays a web page that I could get from a browser. It's great people are excited about it but I wish I knew what to be excited about as it reminds me of when IE started introducing channels in older versions and I sat there not knowing what its purpose was and why I should be excited.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      . . . [Edge's] rendering engine is core to the apps platforms overall too. Even more so as PWAs happen.

      Edge is UWP's rendering engine, but as long as other browsers not in S mode can support PWAs, it's not clear PWAs would do much for Edge usage. Unless PWAs installed from the MSFT Store could only run in Edge.

  10. Avatar

    shameermulji

    In other words, MS Edge OS? That's probably what they should've called Windows 10S and continue that as a separate development path alongside Windows 10.

    • Avatar

      SocialDanny123

      In reply to shameermulji:

      They didn't call Windows 10 S Edge OS because it's still fundamentally full Windows 10, but its with a artificial block. But there's another OS that's coming out that doesn't have legacy bloat or any upgradability, e.g Polaris, Polaris IMO should have Edge OS or Azure OS as it's name.

  11. Avatar

    rob_segal

    If Edge is going to be the only major browser that supports Sets, then I can see opening a link in Mail in Edge in a new tab would be a logical reason for Microsoft's decision. I highly doubt Chrome or Firefox (Chrome especially) will support Sets in the near future. This is still an anti-choice, anti-user decision. PWA's using Edge rendering is okay. Ignoring a user's default browser choice or not providing an option to change the default browser is a disservice for users who do not want to use the Edge UI when browsing the web or opening links. PWA's that look like native apps is a different situation than this. I separate the browser from the engine that renders PWA's that run like native apps.

  12. Avatar

    NT6.1

    No. Windows is Win32.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      In reply to NT6.1:

      It's funny, I was kind of thinking the same thing. Win32 *is* Windows in so many ways. Until this stupid S mode thing, it was the one thing that was truly universal across this platform and its various versions. (And even then it's just artificial.)

  13. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    A week after this was posted and given the MSFT reorg news, perhaps more to the point to say Edge is all MSFT wants left of Windows.

  14. Avatar

    Bill Russell

    My setup at work is a dual computer configuration - Windows 10 on one and Linux Mint (currently - was Ubuntu) on the other. I use the Linux one as the primary computer, and rdesktop to the windows one. Pretty seamless, but I only use one of the monitors for the rdesktop. I recommend this dual PC setup for people, as opposed to a VM. At home is a "iHac" (hackintosh PC), and Linux Mint as well as chromebooks and iPads. (No windows there anymore except a teen gamer has a Win7 tower)


    I primarily use the Office 365 apps in a browser from Chrome on Linux, but pretty much only use Outlook; rest of the time, Google docs. The only Windows programs I currently need are Visual Studio 2017 and Atmel Studio (uses Visual Studio shell).


    Since Microchip bought Atmel, I have heard that future MCUs may just work under MplabX, Microchip's cross platform IDE using Netbeans. Maybe they will deprecate Atmel Studio someday but it would be a while. I use Visual Studio only to maintain an MFC based application for a customer.

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