Windows users might be able to ‘replace’ Cortana with a voice assistant of their choice in the future.
According to several tweets from various Twitter users, Microsoft is testing some new voice assistant features in some Windows 10 test builds.
This includes deeper support for third-party voice assistants, the ability to activate apps with a hotword — even when your PC is locked — and potentially replacing Cortana on a system level.
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
Twitter user Albacore (@thebookisclosed) shared a screenshot of a ‘Voice Activation’ section in Windows 10 settings. The section included options to allow apps to activate with a voice keyword when the device is on and when it’s locked. Users can also select which apps they want to activate with voice keywords.
Another Twitter user with the name WalkingCat (@h0x0d) replied to Albacore to point out some potentially related internal APIs. Found in the Cortana app, the two APIs are ‘IsSystemCortanaAppReplaceable’ and ‘IsSystemCortanaAppReplaced.’
@thurrott @bdsams @maryjofoley @TheRichWoods Looks like more A/B testing happening with 18298. ‘Type here to search’ and ‘Talk to Cortana’ separated on Taskbar. pic.twitter.com/iuAEd4tLvg
— Michael Reinders (@mdreinders) December 12, 2018
Finally, Twitter user Michael Reinders (@mdreinders) shared screenshots of a separated Search and Cortana button. Currently, Windows 10 has one button for both Cortana and Search. However, Reinders says Microsoft is A/B testing an option that splits the two features up.
Splitting up Search and Cortana could be related to replacing Microsoft’s voice assistant. Separating the features could make it easier to swap out Cortana for other voice assistants.
Overall, its good to see Microsoft moving to support more voice assistants. However, it’s not clear how many companies will take advantage of it. Amazon likely will — it already works closely with Microsoft for Alexa support.
Apple certainly won’t bring Siri to Windows, and I can’t imagine Samsung bringing Bixby to Windows either. That leaves Google, but the search giant’s historical animosity towards Microsoft suggests we won’t see its assistant on Windows either.