AH Tech Talk: Windows 10 Is Hurting Google

Most computers out there these days and in days past use Windows. Microsoft’s titan of an operating system has been bundled on new computers and downloaded onto decommissioned old rigs for over two decades, leading to an insanely huge user base. Naturally, most of that user base has capable enough hardware to run Microsoft’s latest creation, Windows 10. Hailed as a return to form after the coldly-received Windows 8, Windows 10 found quick popularity by being offered as a free upgrade to computers running Windows 7 and Windows 8, even those that had shipped with a different OS and bought Windows 7 or 8 later, or even pirated the operating system. Between giving pirates a chance at a legitimate copy and giving users of older systems a clear and easy upgrade, it’s no surprise to learn that Windows 10, less than two years after release, has already garnered over twenty percent of the total Windows PC market, despite being less popular than Windows 7.

One of the bigger changes in Windows 10 is the search bar. In Windows 7 and 8, it was mostly used for searching content on your own computer. In Windows 10, however, it can be linked up to web search, which defaults to Bing, as well as Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant, which also uses Bing for web results. It should come as no surprise, then, that traffic on Bing has jumped up and begun cannibalizing Google searches. According to Microsoft, about 35 percent of their traffic on Bing was from devices running Windows 10. Rather than firing up a browser to search, users could simply click the search bar on their desktop or even just verbalize their wish to Cortana. This would result in a window popping open in the default browser, which defaults to Microsoft Edge, with the Bing result for their query.

While this could be changed to use Google, it was a somewhat intensive process that most didn’t bother with - they had the results they wanted in front of them, no need to mess around with things and change over to Google. Bing Maps and a number of other Bing services are baked into various parts of Windows 10 in similar fashion. Add this to the fact that Microsoft has been paying third parties to have them help drive traffic to Bing and it becomes quite clear just how Microsoft has managed to creep a foot into Google’s search empire.

It’s not all gloom and doom for Google, of course; despite all of this business with Windows 10, Google still dominates the mobile space and has a large crop of desktop users, as well as baking their services into Chrome OS. This has translated to a jump in total advertising revenue for them of 18 percent year on year. As devices get cheaper and internet connections reach further, the web is a more accessible place than ever. A brand-new, low-end Windows 10 laptop can run as little as $199, or even dip into the $50 territory for an older tablet or a micro form factor PC that can hook into a monitor or HDMI-capable TV. With Chromebooks, it’s about the same story. And, of course, you can net yourself an Android smartphone for dirt cheap these days, even as low as $10.

Let’s not forget that chatbots, A.I. and all-in-one platforms like Facebook Messenger are on the rise. Convergence with internet traffic, bringing all of a given subset of users’ traffic through one gateway source, is slowly becoming the norm. For the most part, Google and Microsoft have been relying on their operating systems rather than addressing this directly. The issue with that approach, however, is that Android and Windows are being used to host things like apps, browsers and other convergence services that Google and Microsoft, for the most part, don’t get anything from. While these platforms are mostly being used in emerging markets, that alone is a huge amount of traffic to assess and deal with, and the spread of these platforms is largely inevitable. After a while, it may not be entirely unheard of to see people using these platforms as if they’re an operating system in themselves. And, of course, despite an announcement to the contrary, another Facebook phone could always swoop in to cannibalize more traffic from Android and the struggling Windows Phone, as well as iOS, which defaults to Google for search.

Google, Microsoft and Facebook, as well as tons of smaller entities, are making moves to bring internet connectivity to places that have never had it before, such as third world countries and the most rural reaches of India and Europe. This means that billions of users are on the internet more than ever before and just about everybody involved will be feeling the love. While Google and Microsoft may be fighting it out in search, they’re mostly fighting over new territory. Still, Microsoft has thrown Google a real curveball with Windows 10, both on the homefront and with new installs, as well as an interesting recent push to drive Android users toward Cortana and Bing. It’s going to be quite interesting to see how Google copes with this as the market grows and the next billion new internet users are tapped. Should Google decide to try to win back their turf, it will also be interesting to see how they plan to do that.

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