The new browser wars are upon us and Microsoft knows a thing or two about how to compete. Voice assistants are becoming the new browsers as they are the controlling user interface for smart speakers and increasingly for voice activation on smartphones. Search Engine Land’s Greg Sterling has an interesting finding along these lines. Microsoft Cortana can now replace Google Assistant as the default voice assistant on Android phones.
No Voice Activation Option
Anyone that has downloaded a new browser will recognize the screen permission flow. There is a current default browser and you are asked if you would like to make the new browser your default. That flow is being used now to swap out Google Assistant for Microsoft Cortana as the default voice assistant.
However, similar to the Bixby Voice assistant that is being rolled out through an early access program on the Galaxy S8, users will need to touch the device to activate Cortana. This is an inferior user experience compared to the voice activated option already available for Google Assistant. Microsoft may not have yet enabled “wake word” capability for Android or it may not be able to integrate deeply enough into the OS to enable persistent microphone access. Probably the latter.
Expect a Low Cortana Adoption Rate on Android
I have Cortana on my iPhone and the technology is good, but it is two-clicks to access. Open the app and then press the microphone. The same is true for Google Assistant on iOS. Removing the “app open” step and enabling a long-press of the home button on Android does significantly improve convenience for Cortana users. However, hands free voice activation will be necessary for Cortana to get real adoption on Android beyond the most ardent Microsoft loyalists. It was a good idea for Microsoft to enable the feature but it is unlikely make much impact.