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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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.
jries921
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50%
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.
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.  :)
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
5/2/2016 | 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?  
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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0%
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.
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.
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.
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