Microsoft’s lightweight version of Windows 10 is a bit more locked down than first anticipated.
In an FAQ page for Windows 10 S, as the just-announced variant is called, Microsoft notes that its Edge web browser will be the default in the new operating system.
That much was known already, as the main thing that makes Windows 10 S “lightweight” is the fact that it only runs apps from Windows’ app store. Right now, no other major browser is in that app store and available on PCs to begin with.
What wasn’t specified before, though, was the fact that neither Edge nor Internet Explorer (Microsoft’s older browser) will let you change the default search engine in Windows 10 S. As LaptopMag notes, that means you’ll be sent to Microsoft’s Bing engine whenever you search from the address bar, with no way of switching to Google, DuckDuckGo, or another competitor without going to their respective websites.
With regular Windows 10, you can dig through a few settings menus in Edge and change the default engine from Bing to your preference.
Beyond that, the FAQ page notes that even if you are able to download another browser from the Windows app store, Edge “will remain the default if, for example, you open an .htm file.” In other words, when you open a link from an email, chat app, and what have you on a Windows 10 S machine, that link will open in Edge every time.
Microsoft likely has its reasons for this — the big ideas it’s selling with Windows 10 S are security and simplicity, with a particular focus on schools. The easiest way to create that, in its eyes, is to put the services it can directly control at the forefront of the OS as much as possible. Getting more people to use its stuff probably doesn’t hurt, either.
But from a consumer standpoint, this kind of closedness is a ways away from the flexibility of standard Windows 10. Bing, while generally fine, has long been less popular than Google Search, even as it’s become more tightly integrated with Windows 10.
It’s worth noting that Microsoft has tried pushing people toward Bing before. Back in 2014 it launched a “Windows 8.1 with Bing” edition of its OS that was aimed at lower-cost hardware, much like Windows 10 S today. It required Microsoft’s device partners to make Bing the default search engine, too, though it gave consumers the ability to opt out if they wanted.
Theoretically, there isn’t much stopping a Google or Mozilla from bringing their web browsers to the Windows app store. And if you really wanted to avoid Bing, you can always make a shortcut to Google Search or whatever else.
Plus, this kind of policy isn’t totally unprecedented: Google locks Chrome as the default browser on its Chrome OS (but does let you change default search engines), while Apple does the same with Safari on iOS.
But those interested in Microsoft’s flashy new Surface Laptop may want to keep in mind that Windows 10 S really wants you to use Microsoft things, and that it’s aimed at schools much more than professionals and heavier PC users. It’s more like Chrome OS, just with Microsoft in Google’s place.
It’s also worth remembering that schools can upgrade a Windows 10 S machine to full Windows 10 Pro for free. Surface Laptop buyers can do the same until the end of the year — though it may make the hardware a bit less efficient than it’d be otherwise.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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