Drifting away from Modern Life

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I used Windowsphone exclusively from about 2010 to just a few months ago, My last Lumia 950 got sold on ebay and my regular device is a Nokia 7 Plus. I used Cortana and Bing Maps on Windowsphone and liked the experience of live tiles. Like many people I hate the “grid of icons” experience of both Android and IOS. However, there is no choice. 

As a British user of Cortana I was used to it being less functional than the USA. Until reasonably recently it didn’t understand my route to work because I travel by bus rather than drive. The mapping with Bing was well behind Google. It did the job but often put things on the wrong side of the street etc. With both products I clicked ferociously at the feedback button to correct map errors and improve the experience. I didn’t see much change myself but you can always hope. Suffice to say things were sub-optimal but improving over time. 

Once on Android I put the Microsoft Launcher on and added Cortana as the default assistant. Despite Cortana’s lacklustre performance in general it could read my Outlook appointments and work with my PC. So there was reason to standardise. Cortana isn’t as good. It is really just a voice web search and not a very good one. It is quicker to search on the command line. I could go on with it still not understanding my journey to work but it seems Google Maps does. After a couple of trips it suggests my bus route and tells me about delays. I find this to be extraordinary given that Microsoft is now focused on AI and machine learning. How come Cortana didn’t know this stuff? 

Gradually, on Android, I have found Cortana not to be improving but a step backwards from Windowsphone. The application this week has taken three presses to start. Sometimes it doesn’t start at all unless I restart the phone. 

Google Assistant has now gone back on. Cortana is still there in the launcher but demoted. 

As Microsoft is now talking about “Modern Life” consumers I reflect on the fact that my modern life outside home and work depends on information on my mobile. Usually travel, commuting, payments, search, directions, mapping and photos. I find myself drifting towards Google services that just seem to be doing these things better.

Thinking about Microsoft’s “Modern Life” for consumer. My current feeling is that presently the services consumers use are not the services Microsoft is focusing on. In fact they have slowed development in almost all of them to the point in which consumers have to make extra effort to use less useful services if they want to use Microsoft products on mobile.

If they want to do “Modern Life” then there is a lot of work to do.

Comments (13)

13 responses to “Drifting away from Modern Life”

  1. evox81

    I did much the same when I made the switch to Android a year ago. Launcher, Cortana, etc. Installed it all.


    I recently did a factory reset on my Galaxy S8+... I put the Microsoft Launcher back on (it really is an excellent launcher) but when it came to the voice assistant I didn't bother to set up Cortana this time. I used Cortana all of the time with Windows Phone, both voice and text, but I find myself using voice (regardless of which assistant) less and less now that I'm on Android. It just seems less useful than it did back on WP.

  2. Bats

    LOL...Microsoft is talking about Modern Life? Boy...that's rich!


    For me, I am living a modern life....and Google is a big part of it. We all want that modern life, but no company can offer it except for Google. In terms of privacy and Google, all of that can be wiped away with press of a button, so that's not an issue for me. It's like hiring an personal (human) assistant. He or she is going to know me personally, know what coffee I like, and know all the information that I need to know, before I ask it.


    I wake up in the morning to the alarm clock on my Pixel 2 XL. I take a shower, then ask say "Hey Google....Good Morning." Google then tells me what the weather is for the day, the traffic to work, and some news." As I get ready for work, I say "Hey Google play the News Channel on (Nvidia Shield Pro) Chromecast Name. Then I say, "Hey Google, let me speak to Mercedes Me." Through that Mercedes Benz app on my Google Home, I make it start my car. Once I am in the car I play Podcast. BTW, I ditched Pocket Casts for the new Google Podcast player. When I am at work I have my phone handy and nearby, but when it's not, I have my Wear OS watch on my wrist to notify me of any incoming calls or text messages. Then, at times, I take the Panera App and order lunch and pay with Google Pay, so when I go to Panera, all I would have to do is pickup my bag that has my name on it and go back to the office. While I am eating lunch, I am catching up on some tv shows on my phone using Youtube TV. Sometimes I'll rent a movie and watch it work and if I can't finish it, I'll just finish at home on the big screen. Sometimes, after work, I'll stop off at the 7-11 to buy a snack, which I'll pay using my phone via tap using Google Pay. LOL...the stares I get from people when they see me doing this....LOL. I'll be honest, I always try to pay for stuff using Google Pay. It's easy, quick, I think it's safe to do, and it's fun astonishing people behind you in the line at the cash register. Then I go to my parents house to see if they are ok. I set their house up with alot of smart home devices, so they and I can have control their consumption of energy. Sometimes my parents leave their lights on and forget to turn it off. Thanks to their Google Home Minis and Amazon Echo's, turning off is as simple as telling either the Google Assistant or Alexa to turn the lights off. When I come home, (say during the winter) my lights are turned on and are programmed to turn off at 10pm at night for the exception of two light bulbs, where they are supposed to remain throughout the night but at 1% dimmness. Then I watch TV on Youtube TV or Youtube or Netflix or ....cough......Terrarium.....cough....Kodi....whatever.....until I fall asleep. Then, I start the whole cycle all over again.


    I think it's safe to say, that I lead a modern life.


    Ya know what I want to try next? Ordering stuff from Amazon and having it delivered to the trunk of my car. They have that service and my car is "compatible" with it.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to Bats:

      Your Benz starts up with just a word to the Google Assistant?


      Okay. Thanks for the tech report Daddy Warbucks. :D

    • wright_is

      In reply to Bats:

      No Google Pay over here, or rather, it started last month, but you can't use it if you don't have one of about 3 different German credit cards, because it doesn't support the rest.

      Luckily the NFC API on Android is open, so I can use the apps from the 2 banks I use for contactless payments - which is also more useful, because the transaction appear straight away on my bank account, so it is easier to keep track of spending (they use the debit cards, not the credit cards).

      I use an alarm clock, no phones allowed in the bedroom.

      I use my 'phone to listen to an audio book or podcast, while making the coffee and walking the dog. The BT in my Nissan allows me to carry on listening. The car can't be started remotely and doesn't have any cellular technology, so it can't be hacked.

      At work, the phone stays on my desk all day, until it is time to go home. I used to have a smartwatch, but I gave up wearing it, it didn't bring any benefits and was just a distraction.

      I pop to the local supermarket once a week and buy lunch for the week, which I keep in the fridge at work, in this weather, generally different types of salad. I can pay for that with my banking app on my phone, but I generally pay cash.

      Given that smarthome devices are, generally, a very insecure technology that opens the rest of the network up to attack, we don't have anything, other than an Android TV - although the Google voice recognition on that is so poor, it is generally quicker to use the remote to type in a search on the on-screen keyboard!


  3. wright_is

    It is because Microsoft still is a very US centric company, not as bad as Google with ChromeOS, but still bad, especially with search and services.

    Consider yourself lucky to have Cortana at all. I have Cortana on the desktop and on my Windows Phone, but on my Android devices, there is no Cortana. For some reason, Microsoft says that there is no server infrastructure for Cortana on Android (or iOS) in German, but there is for Windows!

    On the positive side, Bing has improved over the last 2 years to be usable in German, if not a complete replacement for Google.

    Core products, like Windows and Office get very good international support, Server products less so (there are several instances of localisation problems with Server 2016, for example, where utilities and services work in English language installations, but fail in localised languages, setting up dnssec with dnscmd, for example, doesn't work in German due to errors in the translation (you need to answer J/N (yes/no), but the J doesn't work, so you have to use the /f flag to force an answer.

    Services are the worst affected, they seem to think the World stops at US borders for a lot of things. Hardware can be even worse, just look at Zune or Band, neither of which really got past the US borders, before being cancelled as a failure (I remember people in Europe repeatedly saying the wanted the Zune HD, MS never released it outside the USA, compared it to worldwide sales of the iPod and declared it a failure, without even trying to sell it!).

    • ponsaelius

      I worked with German colleagues for more than 4 years and saw the problem first hand when they wanted to use Microsoft products in their own language. They were in the UK and that kinda made the choice for them but I know it was a pain.


  4. Paul Thurrott

    This mirrors my thoughts and experiences. I feel like even those who care about the Microsoft stuff are starting to drift off.

  5. F4IL

    I believe you already answered a couple of questions yourself.

    Assistants are based on machine learning which in turn is based on sustaining a feedback loop with lots of data to train your model. Compared to google, microsoft simply doesn't have the user interaction required to improve Cortana. Note that i mentioned compared to google.

    In isolation, Cortana does improve but compared to google's assistant and in general, google's AI driven services, it appears to be stagnant and in some cases going backwards.

  6. wunderbar

    People use Windows out of sheer inertia. Other than that, there isn't a single Microsoft product/service that's better than the competition.


    so yes, drifting away from their services is normal.


    And as is pointed out on a regular basis, their failure in mobile is just the final straw. Microsoft was never *really* a consumer company, but any preconceptions that they were flew out the window when Windows Phone died.

  7. Daekar

    Personally, I feel like all the personal assistants are worthless. Cortana just happens to be slightly worse than the other worthless ones.

  8. skane2600

    I think the whole "modern life" thing is just BS not matter what vendor talks about it.

  9. PeterC

    >>>>>>>>Thinking about Microsoft’s “Modern Life” for consumer. My current feeling is that presently the services consumers use are not the services Microsoft is focusing on. 


    Hi ponsaelius, top post and the line above just about sums up Microsoft right now for me. It’s really sad to see. Such a shame.

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