Microsoft is rethinking its strategy for Cortana, its digital voice assistant, and has now decided to end support for its mobile apps, third-party skills, and accessories. Yes, the Cortana that we know right now is going away and will turn its focus towards personal productivity. The company hasn’t been able to make Cortana the most interactive and viable voice assistant for its huge 1 billion-strong userbase.
The company has been charting this course since the beginning of the year. Microsoft first announced that Cortana will be removed from its Android launcher in February. The Cortana mobile apps, however, were first revealed to have been killed earlier last year -including India. It was still accessible to US users so that they can configure the Surface Headphones.
Microsoft has now confirmed that it is ending support for Cortana not only for mobile users but its hardware users as well. Starting off, the company is ending support for all ‘third-party Cortana skills’ on September 7. This means you will not be able to ask Cortana to play music via Spotify, control your smart home, and other tasks that you would rely on a voice assistant for.
Cortana Android & iOS App
Next up, we have the Cortana mobile apps that will be shut down in early 2021. In an official support page, Microsoft explains the shut down saying, “We’ll stop supporting the Cortana app for mobile (iOS and Android), because you can now manage your calendar and email, join meetings, and do so much more via our new productivity-focused experiences.”
The new productivity-focused experiences include the Cortana integration in Outlook, Microsoft Teams, and well, the Windows 10 Cortana app. Yeah, the company has now separated its voice assistant from the OS and can push new updates via the Microsoft Store. You no longer need to wait for bi-annual Windows 10 updates to try out newer features in action.
Invoke Speaker & Surface Headphones
If you didn’t already know, Microsoft too debuted a smart speaker in partnership with audio giant Harmon Kardon back in 2017. The Harmon Kardon Invoke was backed by Cortana but that changes in January 2021.
Microsoft has now revealed that it’s ending support for Cortana integration in Invoke speakers in January next year. It has decided to transform the users’ Invoke speaker from a Cortana-enabled smart speaker to a standard Bluetooth speaker. The official statement from Microsoft reads as under –
We know that most of our customers primarily use the Invoke to play music because of its premium quality sound. To make sure you can keep listening to music or your favorite podcasts, we’ve worked closely with Harman Kardon to create a Bluetooth-enabled device transition plan that we hope will help ease the impact of this change.
What’s more surprising is that the first-gen Surface Headphones are set to lose the existing Cortana integration in 2020. You will still be able to access Cortana on the Surface Headphones, as well as the Surface Earbuds, with its Outlook Mobile integration.
Since Microsoft knows this isn’t the experience you had signed for, it will send $50 gift cards to Invoke users and a $25 gift card to Surface Headphone users. This seems like the end of the line for Microsoft’s ambitious voice assistant on mobile and hardware. It will be interesting to see Cortana’s pivot towards more productivity-focused features within its apps and Windows 10.