Windows 10 S, Microsoft’s new locked-down operating system that comes bundled with the Surface Laptop, won’t allow you to change the default Web browser away from Microsoft’s own Edge. Furthermore, Edge’s default search provider can’t be altered: Bing is all you get.
Curiously you can download other browsers from the Windows Store, such as Opera Mini, but Windows 10 S won’t let you set it as the default browser: if you try to open an HTML file, or click a link in another app, it will always open in Edge, according to Microsoft’s official FAQ on the topic.
The FAQ uses very direct language: “Microsoft Edge is the default web browser on Microsoft 10 S. The default search provider in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer cannot be changed.” It isn’t clear if OEMs will be able to override this feature of Windows 10 S.
It’s worth noting at this juncture that Windows 10 S, much like its spiritual predecessor Windows RT, will only run apps that you download from the Windows Store—and currently, neither Firefox or Chrome have been packaged up for the Windows Store. I can’t imagine that Google will be super-keen to bring Chrome to the Windows Store if Windows 10 S users can’t change the default browser.
Edge might be Windows 10’s built-in browser, but it definitely isn’t the most popular browser — NetMarketShare reported just under 4 percent usage share as of February 2018, slipping well below Chrome’s 59 percent. And now, it looks like the company may be trying to boost its share through software policies. The company is testing a Windows 10 preview release in the Skip Ahead ring which opens all Windows Mail web links in Edge, regardless of your app defaults. It provides the “best, most secure and consistent experience,” Microsoft argued.
The move isn’t coming completely out of the blue. Microsoft required Cortana users to rely on Bing search and open any web content in Edge, so this is arguably an extension of that policy.
Even so, the move is likely to irk at least some Windows 10 users. To start, its claims are highly subjective. Edge certainly isn’t immune to security exploits, and relying on it could actually create an inconsistent experience if you aren’t completely invested in Microsoft software. If you use Chrome on an Android phone, wouldn’t you want every link on your PC to open in Chrome so that they’re easier to retrieve when you’re on your handset? We can’t imagine that European antitrust regulators would be happy about Microsoft locking users into its own browser, either. We’ve asked Microsoft if it can comment on the concerns and will let you know if it has something to say.