Without Google Chrome, the Windows Store Will Always Suck

Microsoft won’t allow Google Chrome in the Windows Store. Google tried to help users by putting an “installer” for Chrome in the Store instead, but Microsoft quickly tore it down. Microsoft is making the Store worse just to serve their business interests. The Store even allows other apps that use Google Chrome’s “Chromium” browser engine—just not Chrome itself.

The Store Is Filled With Garbage, But Won’t Allow Chrome

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Search for Google Chrome in the Store and you’ll find everything but Chrome. You’ll see a “Best Browser – Search for Google” app that conveniently has Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer icons to make this sketchy third-party application look like a big, official, trustworthy browser.

Microsoft’s Store is full of garbage like this. Just look at this $1.99 app filled with typos clearly trying to confuse and scam VLC media player users. This is the same kind of junk that’s always filled the Windows Store and even pollutes Apple’s Mac App Store, just made a tiny bit more respectable. it’s at least pretending that it doesn’t exist to trick users out of their money, when it clearly does.

Microsoft claims that “app certification” only takes a few hours before submitted apps appear in the Store, so clearly they aren’t looking very hard at this stuff.

Google was trying to make the Store more useful, allowing Windows users to search the Store for Chrome and find it. Microsoft won’t allow the full Google Chrome browser in the Store, so Google put a little app that was basically a download link there instead. Install the app, and you’d be taken to Google’s website to download Chrome. Sure, geeks wouldn’t need it, but it would help lots of average users find and download Chrome, especially on something like Windows 10 S.

Despite the fact that this approach is almost exactly what Microsoft proposed when Windows 8 was released—listing links to desktop apps in the Store so they could be easily found in a trusted place—Microsoft shut Google down.

“We welcome Google to build a Microsoft Store browser app compliant with our Microsoft Store policies,” said Microsoft in a statement to The Verge. But Google can’t do that. A “Microsoft Store browser app” would be something completely different from what Google Chrome is, and from what Chrome’s users actually want. Here’s why.

Microsoft Allows Apps With Chrome’s Browser Engine, But Not “Web Browsers”

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Microsoft is allowing a lot of desktop applications in the Store thanks to the Desktop App Converter, also known as Project Centennial. This includes a variety of apps built using Electron, which uses the Chromium browser engine—the same browser engine Google Chrome is built on top of. These apps often access the web, and do it using the same browser engine Chrome uses.

In fact, Microsoft actually created a tool that will convert Electron apps to Windows Store apps, keeping the Chromium browser engine in place.

But Microsoft’s policies insist that Chrome (and Firefox) are banned from the Windows Store. According to Store policy 10.2.1, “Apps that browse the web must use the appropriate HTML and JavaScript engines provided by the Windows Platform.”

This means Google could create a version of Chrome for the Windows Store—but they’d have to rewrite it and use Microsoft Edge’s browser engine, meaning it wouldn’t really be Chrome anymore. It’d be more like the limited Chrome mobile app for an iPad. That’s not what Chrome’s Windows users want—Windows isn’t iOS.

Chrome Is Banned to Help Microsoft, Not You

The only reason Chrome isn’t allowed in the Store is because Microsoft says it isn’t. There’s no technical reason for the policies Microsoft are enforcing. Microsoft can cite its policies, but they created those policies and they can change them whenever they want.

Security isn’t a good reason to ban Chrome’s browser engine. Google Chrome has an excellent security record, and Microsoft allows that browser engine into the Store via Electron, anyway. (So its policies aren’t even really consistent.) Worse yet, banning Chrome from the Store means that Windows users will have to install the application from the web, putting more inexperienced users at greater risk of downloading malware.

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Microsoft just wants to push Microsoft Edge and its own services. That’s why they’re insisting Google rewrite Chrome from scratch, basically just building a shell around Microsoft Edge. Chrome has become more of a platform than just a browser, and Microsoft wants you to use their platform and not Google’s. It doesn’t matter what you want.

Yes, this is what Google has to do on Apple’s iOS—and that’s why Chrome on iPhone and iPad is so much less interesting. Chrome users want Chromecast support, they want extensions, they want new web features—they want the full Chrome browser. Windows 10 is for powerful PCs, not locked down smartphones and tablets. Even after the failure of Windows 8, Microsoft is still trying to turn Windows into a more limited mobile environment.

Microsoft Allows Almost Anything Else in the Store

While the Store was previously just a restricted place where you could get sandboxed universal applications, it now provides powerful desktop apps that can do all kinds of things, thanks to the new Desktop App Converter.

Apple and Microsoft are working on putting iTunes in the Store, allowing Windows users to access their media and manage their devices even on Windows 10 S PCs that can’t get software from outside the Store. iTunes bundles various system services, background processes, and hardware drivers that allow it to do that.

That’s allowed—so why isn’t Chrome? If Microsoft were actually trying to compete with Apple’s digital music and video store (Groove Music is dead) or mobile devices (Windows Phone is dead),  would they block iTunes from the Store, too?

Windows 10 S Users Will Have to Pay $50 to Install Google Chrome

RELATED: What Is Windows 10 S, and How Is It Different?

Of course, this is Windows, so Google Chrome isn’t banned completely. You can always download it from outside the Store.

However, you can only do that on Windows 10 Home and Pro PCs. If you one day buy a PC with Windows 10 S, which comes installed on the new Surface Laptop (as well as some other PCs), you will need to pay $50 to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro just so you can install Google Chrome. The upgrade to Windows 10 Professional is currently free for Windows 10 S users, but Microsoft is set to start charging that $50 upgrade fee after March 31, 2018.

Microsoft has to be happy about that. Keeping Google Chrome outside the Store makes the Microsoft Store and Windows 10 S worse, and that will soon make Microsoft some extra money. Either you’re locked into Microsoft’s platform, or you have to pay them an extra $50. Either way, Microsoft wins, and you lose.

Image Credit: Microsoft, deepstock/Shutterstock.com

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry.Connect with him on Twitter.

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