Microsoft Limits Cortana To Bing Search, Edge Browser - InformationWeek

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4/30/2016
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Microsoft Limits Cortana To Bing Search, Edge Browser

Microsoft is restricting Cortana to work only with Bing and Edge, and eliminating the use of third-party browsers and search engines for its digital assistant.

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Cortana can no longer be used to view results in third-party browsers or search engines in Windows 10. As part of an OS update, Microsoft has restricted its personal digital assistant to work along with only Bing and its Edge browser.

The Cortana search box, located in the bottom left corner of the Windows 10 desktop, is a key portal for Windows 10 users to access documents, apps, settings, and Web search results. Now those Web searches will be limited to Bing and Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft says the restriction is intended to protect the Cortana user experience, which it created to rely on its own browser and search engine. Previously, workarounds allowed users to view search results on Google, Chrome, Firefox, and other third-party search engines and browsers.

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"Unfortunately, as Windows 10 has grown in adoption and usage, we have seen some software programs circumvent the design of Windows 10 and redirect you to search providers that were not designed to work with Cortana," wrote Ryan Gavin, general manager of Search and Cortana, on the Windows Blog.

"The result is a compromised experience that is less reliable and predictable," he explained. "The continuity of these types of task completion scenarios is disrupted if Cortana can't depend on Bing as the search provider and Microsoft Edge as the browser."

As a result, the team is restricting Cortana to only work with Edge and Bing effective April 28. Windows 10 users can still opt to change their default browser to Chrome or Firefox, or set their default search engine to Google.

Microsoft rolled out several features for Cortana at the same time it announced these restrictions, which prevent the new capabilities from effectively working without Edge or Bing.

One of these additions is the ability to troubleshoot tech via Cortana. You can search "Bluetooth not working" in the Cortana box, for example, and a Bing search result will pop up with a video answer to help.

If you need to do some online shopping, you can start by conducting a Bing image search. Scroll through the results, right-click your choice, and select "Ask Cortana" to learn more about the chosen product.

In a few situations, using Cortana may save some money. If you're looking for a specific store, like Best Buy, type the name into the Cortana box and select the top search result -- in this case, www.bestbuy.com -- and the digital assistant will provide a few coupons.

(Image: Michal Krakowiak/iStockPhoto)

(Image: Michal Krakowiak/iStockPhoto)

While Microsoft reports it's implementing these restrictions to improve the user experience, there are likely a few more reasons why Cortana will only work with Edge and Bing.

Microsoft made Windows 10 available as a free upgrade to Windows users at the time of its official launch in July 2015. The idea was to put Windows into the hands of as many users as possible.

However, Microsoft is still looking for ways to make money off the OS outside the fees it charges OEMs to put it on their devices. Windows 10 and Bing are tightly woven together, and increasing the user base for Bing will generate more ad revenue for Microsoft.

Windows 10 has already boosted search advertising for Microsoft. In its most recent earnings call, the company reported search advertising revenue grew 18% in constant currency during its third fiscal quarter of 2016. Growth was driven by an increase in Windows 10 use.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
4/30/2016 | 3:05:45 PM
To Cortana or Not to Cortana ....
Micorsoft can worry about an complete experience.   But for those of us who just need an OS to work within, Cortana or No Cortana.

It does not matter to us.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2016 | 12:41:21 PM
Re: To Cortana or Not to Cortana ....
Agreed. I do not use Siri let alone Cortana.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
5/6/2016 | 2:48:18 PM
Re: To Cortana or Not to Cortana ....
@tjgkg: The worst part about using Siri to search, regardless of the search engine used, is just how slow and obstinate the UX is:

ME: Siri, Google 'gas stations in Byfield, Massachusetts.'

SIRI: You'll need to unlock your iPhone first.

ME: (enters passcode)

SIRI: (assuming Siri hasn't forgotten the original request by this point) If you like, I can search Google for "Hutch Station son by fields Massachusetts"

(and only once Siri repeats this all to me does she actually start to do any work)
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
6/1/2016 | 2:08:23 PM
Re: To Cortana or Not to Cortana ....
@Joe: I guess Apple has now made even Siri unavailable to the FBI unless you unlock your phone! I've had the same experiences as you asking Siri questions and then getting a google list back. That is another reason why i don't use it. The only thing i've gotten back that was useful was when i asked it what the current score to the Yankee game was. And even that i can get from pulling down my Today screen and checking the ESPN section. I also have a transit area there too so i know when the next train or bus is coming from wherever i am located. And it is quiet so nobody hears what i am doing.
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
5/2/2016 | 9:46:05 AM
Abbreviated Search
Well, it's a good point, but not when it comes to what amounts to an abbreviated search.

 

>> However, Microsoft is still looking for ways to make money off the OS outside the fees it charges OEMs to put it on their devices. Windows 10 and Bing are tightly woven together, and increasing the user base for Bing will generate more ad revenue for Microsoft.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
5/2/2016 | 11:21:11 AM
Devil's advocate
You know, for all the flak we in the tech community give Bing, how many have actually *tried* it?

Does it have a long way to go?  Sure.  But it's still useful, it offers diversity of top results, and its maps solution seems to be a heck of a lot better.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
5/2/2016 | 2:46:26 PM
Re: Devil's advocate
@Joe - Visually, Bing leaves a lot to be desired.  People have gotten so used to the simplicity of the Google landing page that anything else besides a plain white screen is noise in comparison...at least when it comes to searching.  If you have a minute, go to the site now - what is that big, blue montronsity in the background?  
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
5/3/2016 | 9:01:50 AM
Re: Devil's advocate
@vnewman: I dunno.  I'm not seeing that.  I'm seeing a picture of a mountainous landscape.

Whereas on Google today, I'm seeing YET ANOTHER doodle.  They were cute when Google did them every now and then once in a blue moon.  But now they do them all the time.  This one is for "National Teachers Day" -- just another made-up #day that nobody actually cares about (unless you're a teacher or teacher-booster).

I think I see doodles more often than I see the actual Google logo these days.

In any case, functionality-wise, I still thing Bing has some catching up to do for regular old search, but UX-wise it's a wash.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2016 | 11:58:41 AM
Re: Devil's advocate
@Joe - I love the doodles!  I think they are clever.  But you know, different strokes for different folks.  But @Joe what I'm really worried about is the riot you may start over National Teachers Day!  You know teachers love this stuff and feel underpaid plus underappreciated.  The least we can do is give them a day, no?

In all seriousness, I have to disagree with the UX on Bing - especially being a Mac user - the graphics and layout are terrible - there's a lot of noise going on. Completely awful.  It's all in the presentation, MSFT.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
5/5/2016 | 7:33:58 AM
Re: Devil's advocate
@vnewman: The doodles were fun when they were rare.  Scarce.  Now they are no longer special.

The very day after the National Teachers Day doodle was another doodle for someone's 100-somethingth birthday.

I've genuinely stopped caring about the doodles.  They're so commonplace these days that they just get an eyeroll from me now, no matter what they're for.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
5/6/2016 | 1:29:24 PM
Re: Devil's advocate
@Joe - you are not alone - there are whole website dedicated to "I hate Google Doodle."

But don't you see any value in the historical representations and being able to easily research the topic by clicking on it?  I feel like Google is trying to tap into our collective unconscious by addressing past events.  The past is at our fingertips - I love that idea.  But then again, I'm a history buff...maybe not everyone's cup of tea.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
5/6/2016 | 2:49:31 PM
Re: Devil's advocate
History's great, but I'm not a fan of editorialized, "pushed" history.

I feel like I learn more and broaden my horizons more impactfully when I just play around on Wikipedia clicking "Random article."
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
5/6/2016 | 5:28:39 PM
Re: Devil's advocate
@Joe, I don't know - is there any kind of history that's not unadulterated?  The textbooks I had as a kid were far worse.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2016 | 12:51:07 PM
Re: Devil's advocate
Bing is trying hard to be everything to everyone. MS purchased other search sites from other countries so it is also incorporating this data into their application. The result is sometimes information overload. The appeal of Google was the no nonsense interface.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2016 | 12:44:26 PM
Re: Devil's advocate
It's not really that bad, but it is quite busy compared to Google which is pretty much no nonsense. It's sort of like the "Metro" screen of searches! Still I will use it if i do not get what i am looking for with Google.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
5/4/2016 | 7:02:05 AM
Re: Devil's advocate
The basic UI is (usually -- see my discussion of Doodle overuse) is definitely no nonsense, but in general no nonsense?

Google now has a feature where there will be a featured best answer to certain searches -- particularly ones with straightforward answers.

But I have frequently found these featured "straightforward" answers to be at times loaded, at times incorrect, and at times completely inappropriate (even racially charged).

 
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/4/2016 | 8:53:42 AM
Re: Devil's advocate
I can't say I have ever found any search results from Google racially charged. The thing that does drive me crazy about most of the searches is the ads are placed first. But for the most part I think the search experience is better on Google in getting to the heart of the search and easier to navigate than Bing which can really be too busy.
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
5/4/2016 | 11:10:17 AM
Re: Devil's advocate
Excelllent point -- Limited to Google only? We need more search engines, or a better way to find things on the net. That would also be nice

>>  But it's still useful, it offers diversity of top results, and its maps solution seems to be a heck of a lot better.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
5/5/2016 | 7:35:18 AM
Re: Devil's advocate
@jastroff: We used to have more search engines.  A bunch, actually.  17 years ago, Altavista and Metacrawler were my search engines of choice.  Both of those are gone now.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/5/2016 | 8:31:25 AM
Re: Devil's advocate
And a lot of the search engines and map programs were specific to a particular country. I go to Britain quite often and there were some excellent programs that are no longer available-they were bought up by Microsoft! Supposedly they were incorporated into Bing, but not really. Maybe they will be in the future.
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
5/5/2016 | 9:34:21 AM
Re: Devil's advocate
I never liked Metacrawler, but Alta Vista was a primo search engine -- it lost ground quickly when DEC could not keep up with Google c. 1998. But when doing a deep search of the Web for whatever, I use all three main search engines -- Bing, Yahhoo and Google -- I'm often surprised that Bing returns things Google doesnt, or buries. There are other search engines, but the point is there needs to be more than one to choose from
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
5/8/2016 | 11:58:09 AM
Re: Devil's advocate
@jastroff: You're forgetting a "main" search engine: DuckDuckGo.

I'm not particularly impressed by its ability to find things compared to the other search engines, but it offers the privacy and anonymity that Google and Microsoft and Yahoo do not.
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
5/8/2016 | 12:00:34 PM
Re: Devil's advocate
Yes, DuckDuckGo -- I did forget that one. It's the only one that lets you search in true private, not the google "fake" private -- DDG doesn't track
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
5/7/2016 | 8:09:35 AM
Re: Devil's advocate
Metacrawler (if I am remembering the name of the tool correctly) used to take and aggregate all the major search engines (there were several back then -- heck, remember Lycos???).  You'd get all kinds of results that you'd never get on your usual search engine choice.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
5/2/2016 | 11:53:31 AM
Strategic?
There may be valid technical reasons for doing this, but it looks very much like an effort to "encourage" the use of Edge and Bing.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
5/3/2016 | 9:03:30 AM
Re: Strategic?
Well, sure.  Just like how Microsoft prepackages IE with Windows.  Or how Firefox signs a deal with a particular search provider for the Firefox landing page.  Etc., etc.  :)
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2016 | 11:26:48 AM
Re: Strategic?
It is not exactly a secret that Mozilla is a non-profit that relies on sponsorship deals for most of its income.  If I read the article right, MS is pleading technical necessity, not economic advantage.  As aluded to in my previous post, I doubt its honesty.

In general, people are much more tolerant of money grubbing when it is done openly.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2016 | 12:53:04 PM
Re: Strategic?
And when you consider all the "Microsoft millionaires" out there people are less likely to be tolerant of MS trying to monetize every single pixel on a website.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
5/4/2016 | 6:54:08 AM
Re: Strategic?
@jries: I am reminded of when I worked in the box office of an equity theatre many years ago one summer in my youth.

One afternoon, I overheard a conversation between the theatre's General Manager and the Box-Office Manager.  (For those not in the know, the two head honchos of any theatre are the General Manager and the Artistic Director.)  They were talking about ticket subscriptions, and how they needed to sell more subscriptions to raise their profits.

Naive teenage me piped up, "But I thought we were not-for-profit."

The General Manager, a big, burly old man, let out an enormous boffo, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, "Kid, every business is for profit."
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/5/2016 | 8:34:28 AM
Re: Strategic?
That is so true! My girlfriend works in a Christian nursery school that is supposed to be non profit. Because of their excellent programs the enrollment has quintupled over the years and the board is beside itself with how to use the newfound cash (profits)!
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
5/7/2016 | 8:13:07 AM
Re: Strategic?
@tjgkg: Indeed, all "not-for-profit" means is that you're restricted in how you can use your profits if you want to retain your tax-exempt status.

(It is, in other words, a colloquial "racket.")

Another, grander example in headlines today: MIT -- which already has a $13.5bil endowment, is presently in the midst of a fundraiser for an additional $5bil!  (And they've already raised $2.6bil so far.)
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
6/1/2016 | 2:17:15 PM
Re: Strategic?
@Joe: Racket is a good term. And it's sad how greedy "non-profits" can be in their pursuit of cash! Your example of the MIT endowment fund is a start. I remember hearing about Harvard's right about the start of the great recession. They were an example of great money management and they had even more than MIT. You would think with all that cash they could fund the salaries of the entire school with the interest and help keep costs down...
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
6/1/2016 | 8:14:54 PM
Re: Strategic?
@tjgkg: I don't think greed or morality are really at issue; I think we just have to recognize as a society that "not-for-profit" is a pretty meaningless phrase

Actually, "non-profit" universities and other organizations are better positioned than many for-profit organizations because the former are more or less compelled to use their excess funds to build their organization and make it a market leader.  In this sense, non-profit can be a better business model -- as long as you don't care about things like exits and dividends.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2016 | 8:14:47 AM
Re: Strategic?
@Joe: I think with the public schools you wonder where the dividends and profits go from those endowment funds. Because the tuition and other expenses continue to go up faster than inflation. Some schools get exhorbitant sums from athletic programs and continue to build those programs but is that really the mission of a university?

Like you said with the non profit universities at least they have to plow their profits back into the university thereby improving programs which benefit students.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
6/2/2016 | 12:28:14 PM
Re: Strategic?
@tjgkg: I'm not so sure it's for the benefit of the students.

Recent example from my alma mater here: unionleader.com/UNH-says-$17,570-table-in-dining-hall-was-a-mistake
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2016 | 12:55:14 PM
Re: Strategic?
@Joe: This reminds me of the military revelations with the $9000 wrenches. Too much money and too little common sense are a bad combination!
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
6/4/2016 | 10:29:07 AM
Re: Strategic?
Maybe they were really, really good wrenches.  ;)
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
7/2/2016 | 5:15:58 PM
Re: Strategic?
LOL! Yeah, really good for the salesman who sold them to the military! He must have gotten some commission check!
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2016 | 12:48:06 PM
Re: Strategic?
Absolutely. MS wants to keep everything "in the family". But like with Office, all the best applications are not necessarily contained in the same package.
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