Windows 10 ships with Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant software baked in. There’s not even a separate search icon in the taskbar — currently you can choose between a Cortana/Search box or a Cortana circle icon.
But a recent Windows 10 preview build offers a new look: separate search and Cortana icons. Folks who have dug into the code have also found evidence suggesting that users may even be able to replace Cortana in the taskbar with a third-party application.
In other words, sometime next year you may have the option of using Alexa, Google Assistant, or other third-party voice assistants the same way you can currently use Cortana on a Windows 10 PC.
Of course you can already use Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant on a PC. Recently Amazon released an Alexa app for Windows 10 that’s available in the Microsoft Store, and some PCs have been coming with the software pre-installed since earlier this year.
But if you don’t have a PC that came with the app pre-loaded, you may need to click the Alexa button or use a keyboard shortcut before you can start talking to it, since wake-word detection may not be supported.
But another recent discovery suggests that future versions of Windows 10 may have a switch that lets users “allow apps to activate with a voice keyword.” That would let you do things like talk to Alexa by simply saying “Alexa” at the start of a sentence.
There are two different options: you can let apps activate with a voice keyword only when the system is unlocked, but you can also flip a separate switch to add support for voice activation even when your device is locked and showing the lock screen.
You can then select which apps support voice activation.
Of course if you don’t want to talk to your computer (or rather, don’t want it to listen as you shout profanities at it), you can just leave those boxes unchecked and disable as many Cortana features as Microsoft will let you get away with.
This looks like it might be related to assistants? You’ll be able to configure permissions for Voice Activation using keywords/hotwords. pic.twitter.com/VwFt4nYPg5
— Albacore (@thebookisclosed) December 14, 2018