One of the major moves Windows 10 made was to bring Cortana to the desktop – whether you wanted her there, or not – and now Microsoft has announced a big change to the way search works with its digital assistant on PC.
From now on, when you use Cortana's search box (bottom-left, on the taskbar), Microsoft's Edge (which is also unique to Windows 10) will be the sole browser which the OS launches, with other third-party browsers being locked out. Bing will also be used as the search engine, again as the only option.
Previously, it was possible to have a Cortana search use Chrome, or Google's search engine, using simple workarounds (i.e. installing an extension). Microsoft has now shut these avenues down so Cortana is exclusively tied to Edge and Bing.
(Note that this change does not affect browser usage within the OS – it simply pertains to searches which are initiated via Cortana, so if you don't use the digital assistant, or the aforementioned workarounds, you won't notice anything different).
Naturally, this has prompted some unhappy noises from users who don't appreciate having their options narrowed and being dictated to by Redmond, but the company argues it has made the change for good reason.
In a blog post, Microsoft noted that redirecting Cortana to use other browsers or engines results in a less reliable search experience, because the digital assistant has been specifically designed to work with Edge and Bing (indeed, Cortana is powered by Bing as Redmond frequently reminds us).
Microsoft provides a number of examples of what this close integration brings, such as when you search for 'Bluetooth not working' via the Cortana box, Bing will produce a 'rich video help answer' that's only available on Windows 10 with Edge.
Or if you search for 'Pizza Hut', when you click through to the pizza chain's website in Edge, Cortana will automatically show you the closest restaurants. Obviously that wouldn't happen with, say, Firefox, and so you can see where Microsoft is coming from here.
Microsoft stated: "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. The only way we can confidently deliver this personalized, end-to-end search experience is through the integration of Cortana, Microsoft Edge and Bing – all designed to do more for you."
This change is now live, incidentally, and so seems to have skipped appearing in preview builds of Windows 10.