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Sorry, Microsoft Surface Users: No Google Search App For You
Got a shiny new Microsoft Surface with Windows RT and want to search with Google? No can do. The Google Search app is only for Windows 8, and it seems like — amazingly enough — that’s because Google hasn’t gotten around to making one.
Postscript (Nov. 13): This is now finally available. See our story, Google Releases Search App For Microsoft Surface & Windows RT
Anyone searching the Windows Store for the Google Search app and using Windows 8 will find it easily, as shown below:
As you can see, that page suggests that the app will work with both Windows and Windows RT. However, if you try to find the app by searching from Microsoft Surface, it doesn’t appear:
That’s because, as it turns out, the Google Search app doesn’t work with Windows RT. In fact, if you try to load it directly using the aforementioned app page, you get this error:
What’s going on? About four hours after initially posting this story, Google told me:
We always aim to have our products available to as many people as we can and plan to launch updated versions of the Google Search app over time.
Was there any reason it wasn’t up yet? Google gave no further answer. Google wouldn’t say if there was a delay because it hadn’t gotten around to making a Windows RT app or if perhaps Microsoft just hadn’t approved it for Windows RT.
I figured a Microsoft denial was more likely than Google not being on the ball enough to have its app ready for Windows RT. After all, Google already missed an opportunity to provide Apple iOS 6 users with a Google Maps app by apparently not anticipating one would be needed. Why would Google make the same mistake with Windows RT?
But that seems to be the case. About an hour after Google’s statement came in, Microsoft told me this:
You’d have to ask Google, but apparently their search app doesn’t work on ARM devices. We just checked the app details in the Windows Store and ARM is not listed as a supported architecture.
In other words, Google has the Google Search app approved and listed in the Windows Store, and the reason it doesn’t appear for Windows NT users is because Google itself has tagged that app as not being supported for them.
Until Google creates a Windows RT version, those who want to search with Google on Surface and other Windows RT devices will have to go to Google directly and search from its home page.
Alternatively, there is an option to change Internet Explorer to use Google by default (initially, I thought this wasn’t the case). There’s no native control for it, but it can be done if you know to go to the Internet Explorer Gallery, then find the Google add-on. Even then, on Surface, I couldn’t get this to install. The button wouldn’t click.
As for Chrome, Google also told me this:
Our understanding is that Windows on ARM [Windows RT] will not support a version of the Chrome browser. Internet Explorer will be the only desktop web browser on ARM-based devices.
Won’t support an alternative browser because it’s not technically capable of it or because it’s not being allowed? Again, Google wouldn’t say. But Microsoft suggests this isn’t something it’s blocking, telling me:
With Windows RT we’re committed to meeting customer expectations for core experiences while also giving customers the choice of a wide range of applications and services from other providers, all easily accessed from the Windows Store. If developers want to build a browser for Windows RT devices they can do so through the Windows Store, similar to other mobile device ecosystem
Postscript (8:15pm ET): Joshua Toplosky from The Verge tweeted to me there is a way to change, if you go to Internet Explorer via the Windows RT desktop, rather than trying to change it through the native “Modern UI” interface. Right now, I can’t test that this works.
There are two methods, the same as described here by Microsoft for Internet Explorer 9. In one, you select control gear icon, then Manage Add-Ons, then Search Providers, then Find More Search Providers. That should load the Google add-on I mentioned above. Whether this works, I can’t test, because the entire Internet Explorer gallery is done. The same error happens if I try the other method, to “Add” from the address bar.
Postscript 2 (9:15pm ET): Success. IE Gallery came back up, and I was able to change the default in IE on the desktop. After doing that, and restarting Surface, IE changed when running in the native “Modern” tiled-baed interface, as well. The process could be a lot easier, but it remains there for IE users.
As for searching using the main “search charm” feature of Windows RT, that awaits Google releasing its own Google Search app for Windows RT.
Postscript (Nov. 13): This is now finally available. See our story, Google Releases Search App For Microsoft Surface & Windows RT.
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