In brief: Microsoft is testing desktop widgets in the latest Windows 11 Insider preview. One is a search bar right on the desktop. It could prove genuinely helpful, but it could also be a new weapon in Microsoft’s fight against Google Chrome.
“Select” Windows 11 Insiders who install preview build 25120 should see a search bar near the top of the desktop. Unlike queries in a window’s taskbar, which look for apps, local files, and websites, the new search bar only seems to bring up web results. Using it may prove quicker and easier to access than booting up a web browser.
Microsoft doesn’t say which browser the widget opens for results, which search engine it uses, or whether users get to decide. Microsoft has been pushing Windows users onto its search engine and web browser for quite a while. So, it wouldn’t be surprising if it defaults to opening Bing results in Edge.
Since launching Windows 11, Microsoft has taken criticism from users and competitors for making it harder to switch from Edge to another browser, like Google Chrome. It has added and then removed steps in that process, used popups to discourage switching, and given Edge a free VPN service. A new method of making Bing and Edge more appealing could be putting them right on the desktop, where they’re quicker to reach than opening Chrome to do a Google search.
The desktop search field is still experimental, so there is no guarantee it or other widgets will make it out of the preview. Microsoft is requesting feedback on them from Insiders, and a cold reception could kill the feature.