Microsoft has announced a change to Cortana on Windows 10, removing the ability to use third-party search engines and web browsers with the digital assistant.
As Microsoft has frequently pointed out in the past, one of Cortana's key advantages is the assistant's ability to 'get to know you', providing a more personalized experience in its OS. This only really works as a result of Cortana's integration with Microsoft's apps and services, providing an "end-to-end personal search experience" that improves the more you use it.
Cortana is powered by Microsoft's Bing search engine, and the company's ability to provide that personalization depends upon that integration. But Microsoft said today that that experience is being undermined by third parties replacing Bing as the search provider, and Edge as the web browser that works with Cortana:
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. The result is a compromised experience that is less reliable and predictable. 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.
With this in mind, Microsoft has announced that it is making changes to Cortana to prevent the use of third-party browsers and search engines with the assistant:
Starting today, to ensure we can deliver the integrated search experience designed for Windows 10, Microsoft Edge will be the only browser that will launch when you search from the Cortana box.
By restricting Cortana to only work with Edge, it will also block the ability for extensions and hacks in third-party browsers, such as Chrome or Firefox, to replace Bing as the assistant's search engine.
However, it's very important to note - indeed, Microsoft stated this in bold in its announcement today - that "you can continue to use your search engine and browser of choice on Windows 10".
These changes apply exclusively to the assistant, and will not prevent people from using third-party browsers or search engines on Windows 10 except with Cortana. You can also continue to set other non-Bing search engines as the default in Microsoft's Edge browser.