by Bill Snyder

Microsoft won’t let you use new Cortana features without Edge or Bing

Apr 29, 2016
BrowsersConsumer ElectronicsMicrosoft

Microsoft's Cortana, Bing and Edge are now joined at the hip, and the company limited a set of new features in its digital assistant to people who use its own browser and search engine.

Microsoft has been very pushy about getting people to upgrade to Windows 10. Now the software giant is trying to get consumers to use its Edge browser and Bing search engine.

In a Wednesday blog post, Ryan Gavin, the Microsoft exec who leads its search team, trumpeted a bunch of cool new things you can do with Cortana, the company’s Windows 10 virtual assistant — and then said most of the features won’t work well if you use any other browser than Edge or a search engine that isn’t Bing.

Windows users can still make Firefox or Chrome their default browser, or Google the favored search engine, of course. However, Cortana, one of Windows 10’s most compelling features, won’t deliver search results in any browser but Edge, and it won’t search with anything but Bing. Cortana’s latest features will also be crippled without Edge and Bing.

Microsoft’s decision is especially annoying, because Edge still feels a bit unfinished, and it doesn’t support browser extensions — a deal breaker, in my opinion. As for Bing, all I can say is “meh;” I can think of no good reason to use it over other search options.

Cortana gets a new set of tricks, but …

Here are a few of Cortana’s new features:

  • You can search for “Bluetooth not working” in the Cortana box, and Bing gives you a rich video-help answer that’s only available on Windows 10 as a Bing search result.
  • You can search for “Best Buy” in the Cortana box, click through on the top Web result to, and Cortana offers up coupons.

I tried to test the features, but I’m a Firefox and Google search user, so all I got were plain vanilla search results in Bing. Honestly, that’s not a real big deal, and most people won’t miss the new results. 

But why is Microsoft getting even more pushy? It likely wants to boost market share for its search and browser products, neither of which top the charts. Of course, Microsoft won’t admit that’s the reason. Here’s how Gavin explained the decision:

“The result [of not using Microsoft’s programs] 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.”

That may be true, but I still don’t like being forced to using a vendor’s products by the threat of crippled features. If Microsoft really wants people to use Edge and Bing, it should simply make them better.