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April 29, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 10:42am

Microsoft restricts choice of browser and search engine in Cortana to Bing and Microsoft Edge

News: Other browsers and search engines, such as Firefox and Google, have been locked out of the digital assistant.

By Alexander Sword

Microsoft is exclusively linking the Cortana digital assistant in Windows 10 with the Bing search engine and Microsoft Edge browser, in a move that will reduce the ability to personalise the operating system.

The decision means that users of Windows 10 will no longer be able to type search queries into Cortana and receive search results served up by Google or other engines.

The search results will also automatically be opened up in Microsoft Edge.

In the blog post, Microsoft said that the decision was because Cortana was designed to work with Bing and Edge and not with other search providers.

"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."

While Windows 10 has been quickly adopted (with the fastest uptake of a new operating system in Microsoft’s history) its search engine Bing still lags behind other search providers.

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According to figures from NetMarketScore, as of November 2015, Bing is the fourth largest desktop search engine in the world with a query volume of 5.77 percent.

Google leads on 69.85 percent, with 16.98 percent going to Baidu, a player in China, which is a market that Google does not have access to. Yahoo retains 6.29 percent of the traffic, although this is powered by Bing.

The move drew criticism from Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor of Search Engine Land and search engine expert, who accused Microsoft of taking "big liberties", saying that the company was offering users an illusion of choice while being deeply restrictive.

Microsoft has been investigated in the past for using its dominant position in the desktop market to link to its own products.

Microsoft received a hefty fine in 2013, after breaking an agreement made in 2009 in which Microsoft had agreed to give every Windows user a choice of which browser to set as default when they bought and booted up a Windows PC. Instead, Internet Explorer was set as the default.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, this decision coincided with a broader consumer shift away from Internet Explorer anyway as alternative browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome began to grow in popularity.

In the early 2000s, Microsoft received an even larger fine for building Windows Media Player into the Windows operating system after the European Commission determined that this harmed competition in the streaming media market.

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