Cortana will get its own button on Windows 10 PCs

Cortana on the PC

Toshiba will differentiate its notebooks, convertibles and desktop PCs by making a huge change to the keyboard. On the Windows 10 systems that will arrive later this year, Toshiba will add a dedicated key to access Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant.

The change will be one of the most significant change to the keyboard since Windows 95 when Microsoft's OEM partners began adding a dedicated Windows key for quick access to the Start menu. Toshiba says that the key will sit in the upper left area of the keyboard near the function keys.

The Cortana key will appear on all of Toshiba's Windows 10 systems, Jeff Barney, general manager of Toshiba America, told PC World.

Borrowing from mobile

Cortana initially was unveiled on Windows Phone as a competitor to Google Now on Android and Siri on iOS. On Windows Phone – which will be renamed Windows 10 Mobile when the platform gets upgraded this year – Cortana is accessible accessible via the search key on the phone.

On the PC, Cortana is currently accessible via a mouse click or on-screen tap of the Cortana icon that sits adjacent to the Start menu on the task bar. Toshiba's dedicated physical key will make it less cumbersome to access one of the most important new features of Windows 10.

To make Cortana work better, Toshiba said that it has added better microphones to its systems so Cortana can better understand user's spoken queries.

It's unclear if other PC vendors or peripheral manufacturers – such as makers of mice and keyboards – will follow Toshiba's lead. Windows 10 will arrive on July 29, and we don't expect Toshiba's new PCs with a dedicated Cortana key to launch before that date.