Microsoft Killed Cortana and No One Will Miss Her

Cortana on an Android phone, complaining that it can't answer questions.
Josh Hendrickson

It’s been a long time coming, but Microsoft’s digital assistant, known as Cortana, is well and truly dead. After stripping her from the only Cortana Speaker and the only Cortana Thermostat, Microsoft shut down the Cortana iOS and Android app. We’re not even sure anyone will notice.

Microsoft launched the Cortana digital assistant app on Windows Phone in 2014 before bringing it to Windows 10, Xbox, iOS, and Android. Originally, Microsoft intended to use Cortana as a codename solely, but Halo fans (where Cortana exists as an AI character) convinced Microsoft to keep the name for full release. Microsoft even hired Jen Taylor to reprise the role for the digital assistant’s voice.

A Harmon-Kardon Invoke speaker next to its box.
Amusingly, I took originally took this photo with a Windows Phone Josh Hendrickson

Eventually, Cortana made its way to a single smart speaker and thermostat. Unfortunately, the Harmon Kardon Invoke smart speaker experience was abysmal, even if the hardware produced excellent sound. The Glas thermostat didn’t fare much better and proved to be another case of pretty looks that lacked in smarts.

When Cortana first launched, it came with features Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri would emulate at later points, like a digital notebook to track interests and settings. And you could create reminders and tasks that could even fire off based on contextual complexity. You could create a reminder to buy flowers the next time you passed near a flower shop, for instance. At the time, the other digital assistants lacked those kinds of complex capabilities.

Alas, that lead didn’t last, and Cortana quickly fell behind. Windows Phone died, and little by little, Cortana support dropped on other devices. Xbox dumped Cortana and now supports Alexa. Windows 10 slowly left Cortana. The Invoke smart speaker and the Glas thermostat both removed Cortana. And now, Microsoft shut down the iOS and Android Cortana apps.

As of today, you can’t download Cortana from the iOS and Google Play Store. And if you already have Cortana installed, it won’t function. Ask it the weather, and Cortana will explain that she can’t help you anymore. Microsoft says it will shift Cortana’s focus to business ventures, enabling offices to use the digital assistant to take notes and plan meetings. But we’re dubious that will take off either.

The sad fact is, most people probably won’t miss Cortana. She stopped being useful long ago. In an ironic twist, Halo 4 revealed that Cortana was dying. In the game universe, all Artificial Intelligence programs go through “rampancy” at the seven-year mark and lose control of their faculties. And as real-life imitates art, Cortana the digital assistant will shut down just about seven years after her debut.

Source: Microsoft


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