MS Office PWAs Appearing Unsolicited on 2004 and Insider Preview Versions

Interesting news about recent appearance of Progresssive Web Apps for Microsoft  Office are circulating right now. I found the first clue at in a story entitled Some Windows 10 users are seeing the Office PWAs being automatically installed on their PCs. After confirming this for myself on both Insider Preview machines and my production Version 2004 desktop, I followed up that story’s link to Mary Jo Foley’s October 14 report at Microsoft is automatically installing Office PWAs for some Windows 10 users: Report. This is apparently a test of automatic installation in the Edge browser of “core Office apps as Progressive Web Apps,” says Ms. Foley, who observes further that “Microsoft appears to be testing this selectively among some Windows 10 Insider Customers as of this past weekend…”

What’s the Fuss About?

If you read over those preceding stories — or this rather more provocatively entited WindowsLatest item — you’ll see there’s a certain sense of violation of choice or control over one’s Windows desktop at work here. Simply put, people are pissed off because MS is adding this stuff to their desktops without providing warning or asking for permission. Ms. Foley has also updated her story to reflect the situation I found on my own production PC (currently running Version 2004 Build 19041.572) — namely, that the Office PWA general app plus icons/menu entries for all the various components shown in the lead-in graphic for this story are now all ensconced in my Start Menu.

I can’t even tell by looking at updates in Reliability Monitor or inside the Microsoft Store, when these items were added to my PC. As it happens I had to turn to Apps & Features in Settings, which shows an install date of 10/8/2020 for the UWP version of my Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise. It’s not clear if that’s an internal file date or the actual date it was installed on my PC (I’m inclined to believe it’s the latter, or the date of its most recent update).

The general Office 365 PWA on my production PC shows an October 8 date. I just installed on my Dev Channel X380 last Friday, and it shows that date (Oct 16) there.

Apparently this has been going on for a while. The intent of this web-based approach to Office is supposed to make it easier and faster to use. That said, some reports have it showing up on machines that don’t have a regular license for Office present (apparently, Core Office components are “free to use” in PWA form). Is this a good thing, or it is too intrusive? Good question! Opinions appear to vary. I’m curious to see  how this will be received in the EU, where Microsoft had to offer a separate “N” version of the OS to allow customers to choose an OS that didn’t bundle in a Web browser. Presumably bundling in Office is going to set off similar alarm bells there. We’ll probably be finding out soon…

I’m of the opinion that if MS wants to change something (even if it means free access to productivity software) they should at least warn me it’s coming. Ideally, I’d like the chance to opt in (or out) at my preference, not theirs. But that’s how things go sometimes, here in Windows-World, when MS decides they already know what’s right or what’s best.Sigh.

[Note Added 10/20/2020: One Day Later…]

Just saw a story on Paul Thurrott Office PWA Installs Caused by Microsoft Edge Bug that explains this PWA installation on non Insider releases (and on PCs with the full-blow MS Office App or Office 365 already installed) as “just a big mistake.” I’ll say. Apparently it stems from a bug in Microsoft Edge related to any and all PWAs that Edge can manage — including, obviously, the Office PWAs. Microsoft is working on a fix, and is pausing the current Edge upgrade release until they get it right. I KNEW it was weird!

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.