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As Microsoft pushes voice commands, notifications onto the PC, Google dumps them

Mark Hachman | Oct. 19, 2015
Say goodbye to Google's notification center and voice search, at least in the Chrome browser.

google speak now

Google’s choice to eliminate voice search and a notifications center from its latest Chrome browser probably means one of two things for PC users: either Microsoft’s own Windows 10 features have won, or Microsoft never should have added them in the first place. 

Google’s Chrome 46 eliminates the notification center Google installed in the browser beginning in 2013, simply because users never actually used it. And VentureBeat noticed that Chrome for Windows has done away with the “OK Google” voice trigger, which allowed users to search by voice within the browser.

That’s interesting, because both features have been built into Windows 10. In the taskbar's system tray, a new Action Center archives all sorts of things, including email, calendar reminders, and more. And provided Cortana is enabled and the PC includes a decent microphone, users can either say “Hey Cortana” or tap the mic button to trigger a search, set a reminder, or more. 

chrome notification
A Google Chrome notification from Slack. Credit: Mark Hachman

Google didn’t explain why it eliminated voice search, but it did say that the notification center simply wasn’t being used. “[I]n practice, few users visit the notification center,” Google said in a blog post. “To keep Chrome simple, it will be removed from Windows, Mac, and Linux in the upcoming release. The notification center on Chrome OS will remain unchanged.”

Why this matters: What Google does shouldn’t affect Microsoft directly. But it’s an interesting indication that consumers may not be warming to two features Microsoft touted as among the selling points of Windows 10. There’s also one relevant anecdote: a year or so back, I visited the offices of Nuance Communications, the developer of the Dragon series of dictation software products. I expected office users to be chattering away, orally dictating documents and commands. Nope—it was quiet as any other office.

What stays, what goes

However, Google hasn’t eliminated notifications and voice search entirely from Chrome—it’s just that they require a bit more effort to use. For one thing, Chrome will still allow a website to send notifications to your browser, such as Slack. The notifications slide in from the lower right, as usual. It’s just that now, if you miss them, Google won’t have a repository where you can catch up whatever you missed.

windows 10 cortana reminder 
One of the nicer features of Windows 10 is the abillity to dictate reminders to Cortana while doing something else. But are users actually doing so? Credit: Mark Hachman


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