Microsoft Will Mute Cortana During Setup on Some Windows Versions


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Incorporating voice controls into devices and software is very trendy these days, but not all voice assistants are created equal. Microsoft’s Cortana assistant hasn’t gained much traction compared with Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant, but Microsoft is still trying. It won’t be trying quite as hard, though. Cortana will no longer inject itself into the setup process on some versions of Windows 10 because that can get pretty annoying.

Microsoft announced Cortana (named after the AI in Halo) at its BUILD conference in 2013. This was an era when Apple still dominated the voice assistant market, but Google’s enhanced voice search features were coming on strong. Microsoft didn’t want to be left in the dust, so it launched Cortana as part of Windows Phone. That didn’t save Windows Phone, but Cortana eventually found a home in Windows 10.  

Starting in spring 2017, Microsoft decided that Windows 10 should have a prominent voice option in setup. There were already several accessibility tools in Windows setup, but Cortana announced itself with the assumption everyone would like that. For the most part, people did not like it. You could argue that it was a minor annoyance to shut Cortana off and continue about your pointing and clicking, but what if you’re setting up a lot of PCs? That’s where the change comes in.

IT professionals and business users have complained repeatedly about the Cortana setup option ever since it rolled out. These are people who are often trapped in small rooms with a dozen computers while they’re set up for the first time. Having all those computers talking to you automatically during setup could be almost nightmarish, as illustrated in the above video.

So, Microsoft is admitting defeat on that front. The Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education versions of the OS won’t have Cortana enabled during setup anymore. However, Home users will have to continue telling Cortana to shut up when they set up a new PC. Cortana has improved over the years, but it’s still less capable than competing voice assistants. Microsoft’s insistence that Cortana connects exclusively to Microsoft services like Edge and Bing doesn’t help. Even Microsoft has had to admit that Edge didn’t catch on.

We expect the revamped setup process to roll out as part of the spring 2019 Windows 10 update, code-named 19H1. That build should include a new light theme and an integrated app sandbox for Pro and Enterprise editions.

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