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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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.  ;)
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
Joe Stanganelli
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50%
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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."
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)
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.
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.
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