Windows’ digital assistant isn’t completely being removed but it is on the way of end of life. Trust to be told, it was just another me-too technology which nobody cared about not even Microsoft.
What is happening to Cortana?
In the upcoming Windows 10 Update 2004, Cortana isn’t removed but it is being limited in terms of features. Good thing is that it is separated from Search and repositioned as a standalone chat-based interface app.
Cortana will lose many smart abilities for which it was designed like control smart devices or play music or integration with any third-party apps.
It won’t be competing directly with Amazon’s Alexa or Google assistant – not that it really ever did. It won’t be integrated into smart speakers – not that many did.
Cortana isn’t killed right away but it is on the way to join Microsoft’s failure club.
Cortana was first introduced in 2014 on Windows Phone which itself was discontinued in 2017. Then, it was pushed along with Windows 10 release in 2015. Microsoft hoped that it would compete with Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa; Google Assistant was not in the game till then.
However, Cortana found it difficult to mark its position. In 2018, the first Smart Speaker integrated with Cortana released and unfortunately it is still the one.
By late 2017, Cortana had only 230 skills compared to 25,000 for Alexa. It is evident that consumers weren’t attracted to purchase Cortana smart speakers whereas Alexa and Google Assistant powered speakers were in huge demand.
In late 2018, Microsoft’s Cortana chief left the company and Cortana was moved from AI research division to Experiences and Devices group. This hinted at a significant demotion and experts believed that it is end of Cortana development as a standalone brand and digital assistant.
In February 2020, Microsoft announced something similar on the lines. Their blog statement reads – “As part of Cortana’s evolution into a personal productivity assistant in Microsoft 365, you’ll see some changes in how Cortana works in the latest version of Windows 10. We’ve tightened access to Cortana so that you must be securely logged in with your work or school account or your Microsoft account before using Cortana, and some consumer skills including music, connected home and third-party skills will no longer be available in the updated Cortana experience in Windows 10.”
Along with the reduced capabilities, Microsoft made it less accessible by not involving users with Local accounts. Consumers will be bound to use Microsoft accounts in order to access Cortana making it even less useful and less integrated in to people’s lives.
Future of Cortana
From now on, Cortana will work behind the scenes for the upcoming project called Microsoft 365. Though it is undefined but overall, it looks like a Software as a Subscription service consisting of Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility.
We are not use how exactly does Cortana’s capabilities are developed or utilized in the project. According to their blog post, it would be used for creating tasks, checking calendar and making reminders. These skills aren’t groundbreaking as Cortana already does all of those already.
Digital Assistant for Windows 10
It is evident that digital assistant space in the Windows 10 will become vacant. It might lead to prominence of digital assistant from other successful companies finding their space into the operating system.
We have already seen entry of Alexa App for Windows 10 and its capabilities. Microsoft and Amazon might work together to refine it further.
Recently, it was witnessed that Microsoft has scrapped its own product to rebuild Edge Browser on Chromium. This shows company is willing to collaborate with others even rivals.
This end of Cortana isn’t actually a big fat failure for Microsoft. Investing more time and efforts would have certainly caused that. However, the company seemed to learn from their past expensive mistakes like Microsoft Nokia venture.
In this case, CEO Satya Nadella is smart enough to understand and admit that competitor products are way better than theirs. It is better to get out of the race and join hands. Strategy should work because it will free up more minds and resources to focus on more important things.