Microsoft announced yesterday that it would roll out news and interests on the taskbar of all Windows 10 users in the coming weeks, and the announcement was met with a polarized reception. The feature had been in testing with Windows Insiders for quite some time now, and it’s also available with the April 2021 Cumulative Update Preview for Windows 10.
In the coming weeks, all users running Windows 10 version 1909 or newer will see news and interests on their Windows 10 taskbar, though the feature can be easily turned off. IT admins can also turn it off with a Group Policy or via Microsoft Endpoint Manager, and in that case, the settings UI in the Taskbar context menu will be removed.
We did a Twitter poll yesterday, and as of this writing the majority of the respondents (36.1%) answered that the widget was “going to be useful, maybe.” 27.8% of you told us that it’s an OK feature that shouldn’t be built in the OS, and a significant 28.9% of you told us that it was straight up a stupid idea.
https://t.co/WGD7bKXpEr Poll: Adding News and Interests to Windows 10 is...
— OnMSFT.com (@onmsft) April 22, 2021
Looking at the replies to the tweets from the Windows team and Panos Panay announcing the feature yesterday, we also saw that the reactions are quite ambivalent. Some Twitter users in the replies see news and interests in the taskbar as a welcome addition, but there are also many replies from users wishing that the Windows team focused on other things, especially the persistent design inconsistencies that can still be seen across Windows 10.
Hope it's a step into the unification of the UX of Windows, because at the moment you have windows xp elements, windows 7 elements, windows 8 elements, old windows 10 UI and new windows 10 UI,all in one chaotic and no sense UI
— Livio Kokthi (@liviokokthi) April 22, 2021
Some replies have also pointed out that the news and interests widget in the taskbar pretty much replicates the functionality of Live Tiles in the Start Menu, Microsoft Edge’s New Tab page, or the desktop news widget that’s currently in testing with Microsoft Edge Insiders. The taskbar widget is definitely much more front and center on Windows 10, though.
I love having the current weather on the taskbar, but the widget's look could be better. I think Microsoft Edge web news widget looks better. pic.twitter.com/B4kgDJ0ubn
— alex (@ale_qc24) April 22, 2021
To be fair, Microsoft is bringing news and interests to the Windows 10 taskbar in a relatively unobtrusive way, and you can get rid of it by simply right-clicking on the taskbar and selecting "Turn off". Having live weather updates in the taskbar can be quite useful, and the widget should be a welcome addition for those of you who like having personalized news at a glance.
Obviously, adding news and interests to the taskbar is also a way for Microsoft to bring more eyeballs to MSN content and increase ad views. MSN articles and ads are also front and center in Microsoft Edge’s new tab, where the content can also be personalized.
It will be interesting to see if news and interests will stick around in the taskbar, or if it will be joining Cortana, My People, or Paint 3D in the list of Windows 10 features that didn’t really resonate with consumers. In a way, the news and interests widget is also reminiscent of the Windows Desktop Gadgets that Microsoft introduced in Windows Vista but eventually killed off in Windows 8 in favor of Live Tiles in the Start Menu.
If Microsoft allowed third-party developers to create their own Desktop Gadgets during the Windows Vista/Windows 7 era, the new Windows 10 taskbar widget is a much more closed system. If users are able to choose their own sources, it’s not possible to escape the MSN ecosystem within the widget.
Time will tell if this experiment will stick around or disappear after a couple of years like Windows Desktop Gadgets. Microsoft used to be really proud of its Start Menu Live Tiles in Windows 8 and Windows 10, but the redesigned Start Menu in the upcoming Windows 10X OS won't support Live Tiles at all. We're still not sure if Microsoft's "less is more" approach with Windows 10X will work out, though we've seen with Windows 8, Windows RT, and many other design experiments that Windows users generally don't like change very much.
Do you think adding news and interests in the Windows 10 taskbar is a good idea, or do you think the Windows team is misunderstanding what Windows users really want? Sound off in the comments below.