Windows users can soon ditch Bing, Edge, other bundleware – but only in the EU
On the other hand, Europeans have to wait for Copilot
If you've ever dreamed of a Windows free from Bing, Edge, and other built-in apps, Microsoft has decided to grant your wish – provided you're a resident of the European Union.
A Thursday update from the Windows Insider Program Team appeared to flag that Microsoft is giving up its fight to get exemptions from the EU's Digital Markets Act – announcing that Windows 11's release preview channel will soon offer cuts of the OS that comply with the Euro law.
The most notable change Redmond flagged is the ability for "all apps in Windows [to] be uninstalled" – including web search via Microsoft Bing as well as Microsoft Edge. Windows users outside the EU will still be able to uninstall the Camera, Photos and Cortana apps, but sorry – Bing search and the Chromium-powered Edge aren't going anywhere.
Microsoft also said it's adding interoperability features to Windows 11, opening default services to third-party vendors like Google – should the search giant desire to code a replacement for Bing's web search in Windows Search. Feeds in Windows Widgets are also being opened up. Again, both are limited to versions of Windows sold to EU-based customers.
Choice about how data synchronizes between local systems and Microsoft accounts is another option coming to EU residents, who will gain options not to sync. Microsoft said it will in future "always use customers' configured app default settings for link and file types," – but simultaneously noted that "some Microsoft apps will choose to open web content in Microsoft Edge."
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Unfortunately for Windows users in the European Economic Area (EEA) hoping to get their hands on the newly rebranded Bing Chat, now called Copilot, sorry – that's not coming to the region as part of these updates, and Britain's getting a Brexit bonus at last.
"The initial markets for the Copilot in Windows (in preview) include North America, United Kingdom and parts of Asia and South America," Microsoft announced. "It is our intention to add additional markets over time including the EEA." No timeframe for Copilot’s Euro-debut was offered.
Microsoft hasn't responded to questions for this story.
Unlike other tech companies that have made their EU-mandated changes universal across their products, Microsoft appears to have made the conscious decision to exclude users outside Europe by geo-gating these features.
"As noted above, some functionality is only available in the EEA. Windows uses the region chosen by the customer during device setup to identify if the PC is in the EEA," Microsoft wrote. "Once chosen in device setup, the region used for DMA compliance can only be changed by resetting the PC."
In other words, the features are there, but Microsoft is going to force you to use Bing and Edge as long as the law lets it.
The Windows maker said it plans to roll out the preview changes gradually over the next couple of weeks and will add the same features to Windows 10 "at a later date." The EU's new rules come into effect in March 2024, by which time (March 6, specifically) Microsoft said Windows 10 and 11 will have the features generally released in order to be compliant. ®