Every copy of Windows 10 comes with Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant.
By default, Cortana opens links in the Microsoft Edge browser and performs searches using the Microsoft Bing search engine. It’s a pretty shrewd bit of corporate synergy that’s driving Bing to new heights.
But that was just the default setting. With the help of some third-party tools and a minimum of fuss, you could change Cortana’s browser to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, and Cortana’s search engine to whatever you want, usually Google.
But not anymore.
Microsoft announced on Thursday in a blog post that Cortana will now be locked into Edge and Bing, shutting out those alternative tools.
Why the change
In that blog post, Microsoft says that switching up Cortana’s defaults makes for “a compromised experience that is less reliable and predictable.”
The basic idea is that Cortana is supposed to help with “task completion.” To use Microsoft’s example, if you search for Pizza Hut in the Cortana search bar, it’ll open the website. With that website open, Cortana will automatically prompt you with the closest locations.
In the future, you’ll be able to say stuff like “Catch me up on the election,” and Bing will pop up with a curated news list drawn from your Microsoft account and Cortana habits. Or if you say, “Buy me Drake tickets,” it’ll be able to take you straight to the purchase page.
All of that hinges on Cortana knowing that it’s going to open in the Edge browser with the Bing search engine, Microsoft claims. Without that kind of known consistency, it’s hard to pull off those tricks.
It makes perfect sense from a technology standpoint. Microsoft is largely blazing a new trail here with personal assistants and AI, so having a controlled environment seems important. Not to mention that this will affect only those relatively few users who bothered jumping through the hoops of installing those workarounds.
Plus, you can still have any search engine you want (Google) and any browser you want (Chrome) as the overall Windows 10 defaults across any other app – just not Cortana.
Microsoft did not immediately return a request for comment.