Bowing to the reality that Google's Chrome has become the world's fastest-growing browser -- and by some accounts, the choice in the enterprise -- Microsoft today launched a Chrome add-on for quickly accessing Office Online apps and their documents.
The small extension adds an icon to Chrome that when clicked exposes the most recently-edited documents in OneDrive or OneDrive for Business; lets the user create a new document in the browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote or Sway; and open locally-stored documents.
While Microsoft has been beating the cross-platform drum company-wide since CEO Satya Nadella took over in early 2014, the recognition that Microsoft's biggest browser rival deserves special treatment was still stunning.
That's because Chrome has been on a growth tear the last year and a half, and now poses the biggest threat Microsoft's own Internet Explorer (IE) has faced since it crushed Netscape more than a decade ago. Last month, Chrome's user share, a proxy for the percentage of users worldwide who run a specific browser, was 29.9%, second only to IE's 51.6%.
More importantly, Chrome's user share has jumped 8.7 percentage points in the last 12 months, and by 10.3 points since August 2014, when Microsoft began telling IE users that they had to update that browser by January or be isolated from security fixes.
In the nine months since December 2014, IE has lost 7.5 percentage points, an amazing amount in the slowly changing browser space, when victories are usually measured in tenths of a percentage point. IE has not suffered a nine-month decline of that magnitude since April 2010, when Mozilla's Firefox was charging toward a user share of 25% and Chrome had less than 7% of the market.
About two-thirds of Chrome's growth since August 2014 has come at the expense of IE; a little bit more than a third originated from Firefox, which like IE, has also been in decline.
Chrome has also made major inroads into Microsoft's core market, the enterprise. Last summer, research firm Gartner said that enterprise use of Chrome would surpass that of IE by the end of this year. In 2016, Gartner's surveys said, Chrome would be the primary browser for about two-thirds of all enterprise users.
Also notable about the Office Online Chrome extension is that something similar is not available for Microsoft's newest browser, Edge. That browser, which is the default for Windows 10 -- and has had a hard time getting traction -- does not yet support add-ons, and won't until some time next year.
Office Online is available free of charge for non-commercial purposes, and requires a Microsoft account. Businesses must subscribe to an Office 365 plan or purchase Office Web Apps Server if their employees use the browser-based applications -- Microsoft's answer to Google Docs for consumers, Google Apps for Work for businesses -- for work-related tasks.
The extension can be downloaded and installed from the Chrome Web Store.