Microsoft Replaces Google Now on Android with Cortana

Microsoft Replaces Google Now on Android with Cortana
Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft News

Tell me this one doesn’t make you want to do a little happy dance. Microsoft just updated its Cortana app for Android, which wouldn’t normally warrant too much attention since it’s still in private beta. But this release is something special: it lets you replace Android’s ubiquitous Google Now feature with Cortana.


I’m not on the private beta, so I can’t confirm this one for myself. I read about it in Neowin, which found out about it from WinBeta. Seems to be a lot of this going around: The Verge wrote about this topic too, but they got the story from the Microsoft News.

But enough blogger shenanigans. According to these reports based on reports, Microsoft may have found at least a partial way into what is arguably the crown jewel of Android. This will require just a bit of explanation.

You see, I think Google Now is the future of Android, in that it will become the primary way that people interact with those devices. Apple thinks so too, I think, because they completely ripped off Google Now in the forthcoming release of iOS 9 with a new “proactive” version of Siri. And I believe they intend to eventually make Siri the default user experience in iOS.

Here’s why: the whack-a-mole grid of icons never made sense, but in today’s app-heavy world, Android and iOS devices are sagging under the weight of multiple home screens, each with multiple folders full of multiple app icons. You can’t find anything anywhere. So why even look? Just talk to your device instead, or if you can’t talk, access a small list of most-frequently-accessed aps and search for the rest. Or why use apps? Apple and Google would love to keep you in their ecosystems, so they can just proactively provide you with what Google calls cards to keep you up-to-date with what these companies already know is important to you.

Put another way, Google Now and proactive Siri are a response to Microsoft’s “at a glance” live tiles technology. But they both go way past the work Microsoft did by anticipating what you need. You don’t need to graze/browse. Your phone will do the work.

Google Now is so important to Android that it has a special place in the Android UI: you tap and hold on the device’s Home button. (Proactive Siri, if I remember correctly, will be activated like search used to be activate in iOS, by sliding the first home screen to the right.)

Microsoft has apparently undercut this capability. You can specify that Cortana, and not Google Now, appears when you press and hold on the Home button. Again, Brilliant.

Of course, Microsoft doesn’t own the platform, so there are some things it can’t do on Android. (Likewise, it could never do this on iOS.) And on Android, you can actually engage Google Now by voice: just say “OK, Google,” and get to work. (You need to set this up first. In Google Now.) Microsoft apparently can’t overwrite that option. Or maybe it just hasn’t yet. Hm.

Here’s a shot of the configuration screen, courtesy of Microsoft News.


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