Microsoft appears to be installing Office Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook automatically without prompting users for consent. According to a number of reports from various sites, including Windows Latest (via ZDNet) and BleepingComputer, the experiment is being conducted using the Chromium version of Microsoft Edge in the recent releases builds of Windows 10 as part of the Windows Insider Program.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are a modern approach to designing apps. They are web applications with features that make them behave pretty much like native apps. Some of these features can include push notifications, background data refresh, offline support, and more.
I can also confirm that it’s the case, since I noticed Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook had been added to my computer running the latest preview build of Windows 10 20H2.
When you select any of the apps from the Start menu, it opens in a new window frame from Microsoft Edge, and then you need to sign in with a Microsoft account to start using the web app.
According to the Windows Latest report, the automatic installation of the Office apps happened immediately after the recent update for the browser. However, in my case, I noticed that the apps were installed on September 22 and not on October 11 as reported by Windows Latest.
These Office web apps are not new, they have been available for quite some time, but they’re always been up to the user to install them. Since the company hasn’t shared information about the experiment, it’s unclear whether the core Office PWAs will eventually come integrated as part of Windows 10. However, since Office from Microsoft 365 is a big part of the company’s revenue, this perhaps could be another approach to lure users to the service. It’s worth noting that there’s a Microsoft Office Progressive Web App already installed in the operating system that allows you to access the Office web apps, but from a single experience.
If you happen to get these applications automatically and you don’t want to use them, you can always uninstall them from Settings > Apps > Apps & features. Also, you can remove them from Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features. Or you can get rid of the Office PWAs using Microsoft Edge by going to the edge://apps page in the browser and clicking the X button to uninstall them.
Update October 19, 2020: According to a Microsoft source familiar to the feature (via ZDNet), it’s appears that the automatic installation of the Office Progressive Web Apps was “partially intended and partially a bug,” and the company has temporarily stopped making these apps available to users. The ZDNet report also explains that Windows 10 usually pins links to the online version of Office, if the apps are not already installed on the device. However, since the last update for the Chromium version of Microsoft Edge, the browser handles these links, but a “bug” shipped with the update that caused the links to be installed as web apps in the operating system.