Why we think Microsoft’s newest web browser with A.I. companion could take a big bite out of Google’s pie

Summary

  • Microsoft is priming their new web browser, Microsoft Edge, and its A.I. companion, Cortana, to be major features in the new Windows 10.
  • The new browser replaces Microsoft Internet Explorer
  • Google currently has a 75% search engine market share while Bing is at 12.6%.
  • Google Chrome has a 46% share of the desktop web browser market, while all of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browsers make up 22%.
  • Microsoft’s Windows operating systems are 95% of the operating system market.
  • If a large portion of Windows users switch from Chrome to Edge, it could be a huge blow to Google.

Intro

If you haven’t been following the news regarding Microsoft’s next operating system, Windows 10, the new operating system from Windows is out later this year (rumored to be in July) and is the successor to Windows 8. They literally named it Windows 10 instead of Windows 9 because they wanted to get as far away from Windows 8 and the discontent it caused the Microsoft user base as they possibly could.

Just this past week it was announced that the new web browser, which is going to be a key feature to the new Windows 10, is going to be called Microsoft Edge. It was originally code named Project Spartan, which seems to be a reference to Microsoft’s Halo series, where the warrior characters are called Spartans. This makes sense as Cortana, the AI similar to Apple’s Siri, is also from the Halo series, so Cortana goes with Spartan.

IE-vs-Edge

The new name, Microsoft Edge, plays off the old Microsoft browser name, which was Internet Explorer. The logo also is a play off of the old IE logo. Whereas before the IE logo had an “e” that was encircled, as if the whole world circled around Internet Explorer (which for awhile it did), the new logo is a flat “e” with a sharp edge to it that mimics the old rotation from the Internet Explorer logo.

This new browser is really big news in the online world, and especially for people that run websites as a lot of people might soon be viewing websites on Microsoft Edge, so designing for them might be important. This also is a big story as Edge, Cortana, and Bing could soon take a big bite out of Google, which would be huge in the SEO world.

The “Project Spartan”/Cortana leak

It was always likely that Cortana would be very important to Microsoft Edge. We had seen that they worked together via the performance Microsoft put on at the unveiling of Windows 10. On March 3rd, there was a leak that has revealed much more about how Spartan and Cortana work together.

The people over at WinBeta managed to get their hands on a version of Windows 10 that included the then code named Project Spartan and Cortana. They then put together a video demonstrating how Project Spartan and Cortana work together. That was then picked up by a lot of tech sites in just a few hours. If you haven’t seen that video already, you can watch it below:

Now that you know a bit more about how Cortana works (or might work) from the video, you can see that it clearly is integrating with a database of information. It looks like that info must be through Bing, which is Microsoft’s search engine that was designed to compete with Google. We can see that the search results are very similar to Bing’s, and we already know that Cortana for the Windows phone uses Bing. It seems likely that the new Cortana for Microsoft Edge is using Bing.

If that is the case, will Cortana then lead to more people using Bing? Could Cortana be a Google Killer?

Google’s search engine dominance

Currently, Google is dominating the search engine competition in terms of market share. According to Search Engine Land, a reliable site about search engine news, Google has close to 75% of the market, while Bing and Yahoo are at 12.6% and 10.4% respectively. Worldwide, Baidu also is a notable search engine.

Despite the dominance of Google, some experts actually contend that Bing is the better search engine for many high volume searches. Their results are categorized neatly and relevant information is shown. Contrarily, much of Google’s results are ads that are bought and paid for.  On Google, you’ll often find that your top search results are two or three ads, followed by two huge, older sites that are powerhouses in the industry, but their pages don’t match what you are looking for. Once you scroll down past those ads and old, powerhouse sites, you then get into results that actually may match what you searched for.

Having said that, Google is excellent at picking results for long tail searches. If you search for something very specific, you seem to get better results from Google than Bing. Google basically is doing a better job at selecting relevant pages for your specific query than Bing does. For a specific long tail type search, Bing is likely to display an older, expert site, whereas Google might show newer info that is long, detailed, and has some good links to it.

So Google is probably better for those unique, detailed, long tail type searches, but Bing is better for the major, high volume search terms. Bing also was way ahead in searches for media, celebrities, and images for awhile, although Google has now changed their site to mimic what Bing was doing.

Despite the two search engines being fairly similar and having differing strength, people are sticking with Google for whatever reason. It could be the dominance of Android in the mobile market (BTW, I am an iPhone user). It could be their excellent other products, like Google Docs, Gmail, Google Now (A Siri and Cortana competitor), or any of their other stuff.

Maybe people are just sticking with what they know. “Googling” something has legitimately become a word that people use regularly in their everyday lives. It was even added to the dictionary.

Google Chrome’s dominance in the web browser market

I think the biggest reason for Google’s continued dominance might just be Chrome. Google Chrome is the web browser Google first released in 2008. It has become very important to Google. Chromebooks are now available and sold in mass quantities as a cheaper alternative to full laptops. Chrome has been built out to include all sorts of functionality. There is even a Chrome version of Photoshop coming soon.

Currently, Google Chrome has about 46% of the web browser market (according to Sitepoint). It’s closest competitor is Microsoft’s various versions of Internet Explorer with 22%, followed by Mozilla Firefox at 16%.

Most experts consider Internet Explorer to be the inferior browser. It’s bulky, slow, and full of viruses. Web designers hate it. Mozilla and Chrome both are more minimalist, sleaker, and faster. It appears that Microsoft Edge has been designed to be similar. Some people even thought that the original name of “Project Spartan” was an allusion to the Spartan way of living, which was simpler (I’ve already given my opinion that Spartan and Cortana are both from Halo).

Microsoft has said that there will be no new version of Internet Explorer. Microsoft Edge will instead be replacing it. I think it is reasonable to think that as more and more people use Windows 10, more and more people will be using Microsoft Edge as their browser.

Microsoft’s dominance of the operating system market share

If you are upgrading to Windows 10, you of course would want to try the new features. Edge and Cortana are a major part of that. If you are using Edge and Cortana, you likely are using Bing (still unconfirmed whether the new Cortana is actually using Bing). Either way, you are using Microsoft’s product for searching instead of Google.

So how many people will eventually use Windows 10? Currently, Microsoft’s various Windows operating systems have roughly 95% of the market share, according to netmarketshare.com. Most of those are on Windows 7 and Windows 8 or 8.1, and I think it is reasonable to think that they will eventually use the free update and go to Windows 10. In the longterm, certainly most of those Windows users will stay with Windows and move on to the new operating system.

How could Windows 10, Microsoft Edge, and Cortana take a big bite out of Google?

If most of or all 95% of the Windows operating system market share eventually goes onto the new Windows, most of them will at least give Microsoft Edge a try and, again, Cortana seems to be a big part of Edge.

If Edge and Cortana are a big hit, and they look good so far based on what we have seen, they could seriously make a huge dent in the supremacy of Chrome in the web browser market. I would certainly expect them to move up from 22% while Chrome falls from 45%.

If that battle of web browsers really swings Microsoft Edge’s way and Microsoft Edge becomes the dominate web browser, no doubt Bing and Cortana will be taking a huge chunk of Google’s search engine traffic.

There are a lot of “ifs” in there, but I don’t think any of those scenarios are completely out of the realm of possibility. At the very least, the new Windows 10 and the web browser Microsoft Edge with Cortana appear to be set to take back some of the ground Google has been dominating.

This all of course depends on how well Microsoft Edge, Cortana, and even Windows 10 work. The Windows 10 Preview has been reviewed extremely positive so far, but we really need to wait for the final full release before we can know for sure how well Windows 10 will work and how it will be received by the public.

Sources:
Search Engine Land
Sitepoint
netmarketshare.com

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