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.

via MSPowerUser and Tom’s Hardware

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7 replies on “Non-Cortana voice assistants could become first-class citizens on Windows 10”

  1. If the vague Win10 notions of “we’ll have access to your data and maybe share it in some unspecified ways with ‘trusted partners’ as we see fit” (I’m paraphrasing of course but that was the gist of it when I installed Win10 when it first came out) is still a thing then I’m not interested in hooking up any Assistant or any other service to run through Windows 10.
    And honestly what do I need it for? There is a GHome Mini on my desk. There is assistant on any phone or tablet. What do I need this to run though my Windows box for? I mean other than the benefit of Redmond and their ‘trusted partners’ whoever they may be?
    Maybe they should just invest the engineering time in trying to keep bugs and problems down when they do updates.

    1. Personally, I just want a permanent way to get rid of the bloatware in Windows 10. I keep deleting the junk and it keeps getting back.

      I really don’t get why MS would associate themselves with the scum that is king games.

  2. Everytime voice assistant comes up, I can’t help but think of IBM’s VoiceType (dictation and voice control) all done locally (on anemic hardware compared to today). This was back in 1996 (bundled with OS/2). I never used OS/2 at the time but back then it sounded very intriguing (along with full support for the “write once, run everywhere” Java).

    Anyway… never imagined that this technology would cause the privacy concerns it has but the web (and the business model that soon followed) was still a pup at the time.

    1. Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a mention of OS/2 online. I worked on OS/2 for several years back in the day. I vaguely remember VoiceType, though all I remember about it was that it wasn’t very good — certainly by today’s cloud-driven standards.

      Regarding privacy concerns, I think once the power of cloud-based computing became clear, there was always going to be this tension between utility and privacy in the private sector, and there was always going to be this tension between security and privacy in the public sphere.

      And it’s not going away. Personalized services are, in general, simply better than general services (as long as they work). You would rather have a butler or personal assistant helping you with your everyday life than someone from agency that knows nothing about you. Likewise, there are legitimate security reasons for governments to have the ability to track people, and (in most cases anyway) it is the democratically elected government leader’s worst nightmare that they fail to stop a major attack on their country.

      I’ve always said that the solution isn’t really in the technology. It’s in the robustness of the civil society and the institutions designed to protect the citizens. If government and corporations have free rein to be bad actors, then the technology doesn’t really make that much difference. The Soviet Union and East Germany both ran a hyper-efficient surveillance state with barely a single computer in sight.

      That’s not to say things aren’t concerning, but at least Facebook and the other giants are beginning to realize there are limits to what people will put up with. Accountability in government is a different issue, and recent cynical moves by legislatures in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida expressly designed to thwart the will of the voters shows just how far we have to go there, but I sense the electorate’s patience is growing thin, so maybe there could be some positive developments toward holding the government more accountable in the years ahead, not that I’m holding my breath.

  3. So, can I say: Alexa, please disable cortana and then uninstall yourself? 😁

      1. Alexa, ask Google Assistant to ask Cortana to delete You and Cortana, then uninstall yourself

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