A few days ago, Windows bamboozled me. A little pop-up appeared (grr, and stole focus): “If you tell me which teams you like – or don’t – I can tell you how they are doing”. My third thought(*1) was “who is this message from?!”
Cortana can do so much more! ^
When you get search results: the term “Best Match” gives the impression that the results are ordered, which makes the ordering, if there is any, feel random, weird … confusing. My search for “pizza” is greeted with “(search the web for) domino’s pizza greece” as a “best match”. (Screenshot from Store)
This critical, core, search UI is also one of the most retro pieces of tech in the Windows ecosystem, it would seem incomplete on a Windows 7 Phone. You can’t reorder the sections or the cards, you can’t right click to provide feedback that a result is inappropriate. The key/button/swipe you use for “back” everywhere else does nothing in Cortana (except maybe cause it to close).
I’ll give just one more example of how this UI is failing the product.
I was trying to launch “Putty”, an app installed on my PC. I hit start and typed “Putty”.
I’m not sure why for this app it thinks that a web search is the best call, but hey. I’m not sure why “Putty” isn’t the first thing listed under Apps, but hey. Lets move past that.
It turns out that you can narrow down your searches by typing a keyword, so you can explicitly search the web with
web: putty, or search for a folder with
folder: putty, an installed app with
app: putty. (Note: other screenshots are from full-screen Start, apparently the results are different in menu mode…)
What if I want to search the Windows Store, generally branded as just “Store” throughout the UI?
It turns out that they’re apps, so that’s the keyword you need. How does Cortana reinforce this?
Cortana could be salvaged. I believe that, in order, its issues are: verbiage, authenticity and inconsistency. It’s OK, feature wise; it feels very dumb when you try to ask it questions – but that’s back to the wordcraft issues – it’s a search engine, not an AI.
There’s also a lack of feedback-based training: it doesn’t learn, so you go thru the same sequences of expect-like clippy q/a sequences to do what should otherwise be simple things.
*1 First thought: “What have I done to give my computer the impression I have *any* interest in /sport/ of any kind?”, second thought: “If you’re going to tell me how they’re doing whether I like them or not, why do you need my input in the first place?
*2 These toasts are optional, but (a) the option is now on by default, (b) the only ones I’ve seen so far read as desperate pleas for you to stop using <insert browser here> and please, please, try Cortana and Edge!