Microsoft Unveils Plan To Push Bing to Office 365 ProPlus Users
Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled plans to deliver an extension that will change the default search engine to Bing in both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers for Office 365 ProPlus subscribers.
The notice of the switch arrived as a Jan. 21 Microsoft 365 Roadmap item describing a coming "extension for Microsoft Search in Bing," which Office 365 ProPlus subscribers will get as early as Q2 of this year. Microsoft's roadmap item included a reference to this Microsoft document, which offered further details.
Microsoft is planning a phased switch to Bing search for Office 365 ProPlus subscribers, and it will target the Chrome browser first. A specific version of Office 365 ProPlus, when it arrives, will trigger the switch, namely version 2002.
This Bing switch will affect subscribers to Office 365 ProPlus, which is Microsoft's productivity suite (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, et cetera) that's sold on a monthly subscription basis. Other Office subscription plans, such as Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium, aren't getting this Microsoft Search in Bing extension.
The timing of the extension also will depend on which Office 365 ProPlus servicing channel a subscribing organization uses. Followers of the "monthly channel (targeted)" update model could see the extension arrive as early as mid-February. More typically, Office 365 ProPlus subscribers use the "semi-annual" channel to get updates. Those organizations could see the extension arrive as early as July 14 of this year, according to the document.
Bing and Switch
Microsoft claims to have a reason for switching its customers' search engines in their Chrome and Firefox browsers to Bing. Namely, it'll give them access to Microsoft Search.
Here's how that idea was expressed in the document:
By making Bing the default search engine, users in your organization with Google Chrome will be able to take advantage of Microsoft Search, including being able to access relevant workplace information directly from the browser address bar. Microsoft Search is part of Microsoft 365 and is turned on by default for all Microsoft apps that support it.
Microsoft Search, in turn, pulls information from "files, SharePoint sites, OneDrive content, Teams and Yammer conversations, and other shared data sources in your organization, as well as the internet," the document added.
Blocking the Extension
Organizations can block the arrival of this extension, but a configuration change needs to be performed before the Office 365 ProPlus version 2002 update arrives.
The options to block it involve using the Office Deployment Tool (at least version 16.0.12325.20288), Group Policy, Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager (formerly "System Center Configuration Manager") or Microsoft Intune.
Group Policy users have access to a setting, called "Don't install extension for Microsoft Search in Bing that makes Bing the default the search engine," which will block the extension. It's available by downloading the latest administrative template files (ADMX/ADML).
If an organization opts to get the extension, or opts to configure Bing as the default search engine for Chrome and Firefox, then end users will get a welcome screen in their browsers when Microsoft Search in Bing arrives. End users can change their default search engines, though, if they want.
Microsoft's document also described a specific command to run if organizations want to remove Microsoft Search in Bing after the extension has arrived.
Initial reaction to Microsoft's plans to change Office 365 ProPlus subscribers' search engines in their Chrome and Firefox browsers to Bing appeared to be overwhelmingly negative. Responders in a Jan. 22 Slashdot forum mentioned a need to take antitrust actions against Microsoft, among other things, for instance.
Various Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) also gave the thumbs down to Microsoft's switch plans. MVP Todd Klindt called it "crappy." MVP Adam Fowler hoped Microsoft would change direction, given "public outrage." MVP Martina Grom asked Microsoft, "Don't be evil -- building trust is a long journey, losing trust only a short walk."
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.