Microsoft kicks off staged rollout of Chromium-based Edge: What to expect

Microsoft is making its new Chromium-based Edge browser available for manual download starting January 15. Here's what happens next in its migration plan.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

Starting today, January 15, Microsoft is starting its planned rollout of its Chromium-based Edge browser. As officials previously indicated, the rollout of the new Edge (or "Chredge," as some of us have nicknamed it) will happen in a staged way starting today and continuing over the next few months.

Today, Microsoft is making the first release of the Stable channel (Edge 79) of the new Edge available to consumer, education and business-user "seekers" only. Windows 7, Windows 8.X, Windows 10 and macOS users can download it manually from https://www.microsoft.com/edge starting today. Chredge is available immediately in 90 languages. (Microsoft also has rebranded its Edge browsers on iOS and Android to match the logo/branding of the new Edge, but these mobile Edge variants are already available in final form and independent of the new desktop Edge browser which is being released today.) 

Ed Bott: Meet the new Microsoft Edge: Your move, Google

On Windows 8.X and 10, Microsoft will hide the old "legacy" Edge browser and make it look as if the new Edge is replacing it. Microsoft says that favorites, passwords, form-fill information, and basic settings will carry over to the new Microsoft Edge without users needing to do anything proactively. And for users who have other non-Microsoft browsers set as their default, nothing will change; those browsers will remain as users' defaults.

Microsoft's next step in its Chredge migration -- probably some time about six to eight weeks from now, I'm hearing -- will be to start rolling out the new browser using Windows Update. The first group that will get the new Edge will be a subset of Insider testers who are in the Release Preview Ring. Microsoft then will extend this group to non-directory- joined Home and Pro users gradually, beginning with those running Windows on PCs that Microsoft has deemed most likely to have a "good experience," officials said.

What about business and education customers? Microsoft is advising admins who want to pilot it inside their corporate environments to download its offline deployment package and related tools, which are available as of today. Microsoft also won't be automatically including the new Edge in commercially available Windows images until some point later this year.

It sounds from Microsoft's blog post today that the company is not going to automatically update business and education customers to the new Edge -- at least not anytime soon. The exact wording:

"Organizations are in full control of when the new Microsoft Edge will be deployed to their managed devices. Managed devices will not be automatically updated to the new Microsoft Edge. In addition to managed devices, Enterprise, Education, and Workstation Pro Edition devices will not be automatically updated at this time."

I think the "at this time" qualifier here might be legal-speak only, given how Microsoft is now describing the Edge blocker toolkit.

In December, Microsoft made available a blocker tookit for those who don't want the new Edge to download automatically to users' PCs. Last week, Microsoft officials updated guidance on who this toolkit is for:

"The Blocker Toolkit is intended for organizations that would like to block automatic delivery of Microsoft Edge (Chromium-based) on devices running Windows 10 version 1803 and newer that are running the Home or Pro Edition of Windows. All other versions and Editions of Windows are excluded from being updated automatically. Devices running Windows 10 Home or Pro Edition that are joined to an Active Directory or Azure Active Directory domain, are MDM managed, or are WSUS or WUfB managed, will also be excluded from this automatic update."

Microsoft is not going to use the Microsoft Store to deliver updates to new Edge users. Officials say the browser will update independently roughly every six weeks. The first major update to today's release, Microsoft Edge 80, is expected to roll out to the Stable channel in early February officials said.

For those still running Windows 7 even though Microsoft is no longer supporting the OS for free, Microsoft will continue to make the new Edge available for some period of time. Officials are not saying for how long, but Google recently said it would support Chrome on Windows 7 until July 2021, so it's a good bet the new Edge will be available at least that long on Windows 7.

Microsoft also is working on bringing the new Edge to ARM64 and Linux. Today's Stable channel release is not yet available for either of those platforms.

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