If you’ve chosen to enable Amazon’s Alexa on Windows, you’re in for a bonus: In the future, you may get to talk to Alexa—and not Cortana—while your PC is locked.
Microsoft celebrated Amazon Prime Day by announcing Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 18362.10005, a small build in the 19H2 or “Slow” ring. Those updates are part of what you might call the “patch” feature update that’s due this fall, rather than the “new feature” release, or 20H1, due sometime in the spring of next year.
What’s interesting, of course, is that most people would consider talking to Alexa on the lock screen a feature, rather than a fix. (Right?) Alexa is already available as an app for Windows. But Alexa is also a part of Windows, and can be invoked by saying “Hey Cortana, open Alexa.” (Always-on, listening assistants may pose a risk to privacy, as we’ve pointed out.)
By putting Alexa on the lock screen, a Windows 10 PC (with the lock screen enabled) would essentially be an Alexa smart speaker, even when the PC is in sleep mode.
So far, though, we’ve always assumed Cortana’s primacy within Windows. That may end. Build 18362.10005 includes the option of “a change to enable third-party digital assistants to voice activate above the Lock screen.” These options are off by default, and Microsoft won’t necessarily roll them out to everyone right away—or even turn them on after it pushes the update to your PC.
The new build also includes a fix to allow OEMs to reduce the inking latency based on the hardware capabilities of their devices, rather than being stuck with what the operating system decides should be the latency, based on the available hardware.
We’ve wondered about what will happen to Cortana after Javier Soltero, Cortana’s chief, announced his departure from Microsoft last year. But, really? An Alexa-powered Windows PC? The world is changing.