Don't ask Cortana what the time is (update: in UK)

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Cortana is one of the crown jewels of Windows 10, and it is often promoted as one of the main reasons to upgrade to Windows 10. Windows Phone users often tout Cortana as being smarter than Siri, which is also on the way to the desktop, but a number of impartial tests have shown this is not really true.

A startling example is the above query – Ask Cortana “What’s the time?” and despite her recognizing the phrase perfectly well she delivers the definition of time (above), rather than the more useful actual time.

Interestingly asking Cortana “What is the time right now?” produces the expected result, as does “What is the time in Cape Town?” or somewhere else.

time right niw

Google’s voice search of course produce the expected result for whatever you ask, and in general delivers much better results for things like opening hours and also voice recognition in general.

Unfortunately there is no one-button way to activate Google Voice search on Windows 10, while a simple keyboard shortcut will get Cortana listening on Windows 10.

In fact here is a little tip for our readers.  Logitech’s Mouse Option software includes the option of setting a button (such as the middle mouse button) as a one-click Activate Cortana button on Windows 10, if you find saying “Hey Cortana!” tedious and awkward like me.


That advantage means I am much more likely to try a query on Cortana than Google Voice, which means opening the Chrome browser, opening a new tab and pressing on the Microphone button. However with the poor quality and performance of Cortana’s results any time saved is usually wasted on repeating myself and being disappointed by the result.

In short, Microsoft needs to do a lot better than this before touting Cortana as an actual reason to upgrade to Windows 10.

Are the experience of our readers any better? Let us know below.

Edit: While many readers clearly do not have an issue with this query, I chose to ask “What’s the time?” as I felt it was the most basic question possible when demonstrating the digital assistant, and as can be seen in the video below Cortana clearly gets it wrong, for me, on my phone and PC, and on other PCs in my home.  This is a simple case which Microsoft should be getting right for everyone every time.

More about the topics: Cortana, editorial, windows 10