Microsoft changes its Cortana strategy, drops features

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 29, 2020
Windows, Windows 10

Microsoft announced plans yesterday to change the digital assistant Cortana into a tool that is focused on "productivity" and more closely aligned with the company's vision for Microsoft 365.

Cortana, which Microsoft introduced in Windows 10 when it launched the operating system back in 2015, was designed as a direct competitor to Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant.

Microsoft integrated Cortana deeply in the operating system in an effort to boost the reach and exposure of Cortana; not the first time Microsoft tried the strategy as it has a track record of making features exclusive to newer versions of Windows such as DirectX 10 exclusivity in Windows Vista or making the old Microsoft Edge browser Windows 10 exclusive.

Microsoft bundled Search and Cortana together in Windows 10 which increased the exposure of the feature significantly. It appears that Microsoft's strategy has not pushed Cortana as much as Microsoft hoped it would. The company split Cortana and Search in Windows 10 version 1903.

Microsoft plans to change Cortana into a productivity assistant in Microsoft 365 in future versions of Windows 10. Cortana is changed from a digital assistant that competes with Alexa and Google Assistant to a tool that is more closely linked to Microsoft's own services and tools.

Microsoft notes:

The upcoming update to Windows 10 will include access to a new Cortana experience with an emphasis on productivity, helping you quickly find the information you want across Microsoft 365. The new Cortana experience in Windows 10 features a chat-based UI that gives you the ability to interact with Cortana using your voice or the keyboard.

Most of the new features of Cortana appear to be limited to US-English versions of Windows 10. Cortana will help users in better managing tasks and schedules, and to better focus on "what matters with meeting insights".

Cortana continues to provided answers from Bing, set alarms and timers, open applications, adjust settings, and for jokes.

Some features that are currently supported by Cortana will go away, however. Microsoft mentions features such as controlling music using Cortana, connected home, and third-party skills in particular. Whether other features will go away as well remains to be seen.

Closing Words

Is the change a last attempt at establishing Cortana as a new service? It seems clear that Cortana did not meet Microsoft's expectations; this left Microsoft with options to drop Cortana entirely or try to reinvent it to give it another chance of success.

Now You: What is your take on the change? Will Cortana be there in two years?

Microsoft changes its Cortana strategy, drops features
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Microsoft changes its Cortana strategy, drops features
Microsoft announced plans yesterday to change the digital assistant Cortana into a tool that is focused on "productivity" and more closely aligned with the company's vision for Microsoft 365.
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  1. Jim said on November 20, 2020 at 4:06 am

    Changing Cortana means stealing a user’s notebook that Cortana has accessed, that is progress and making it more difficult to set up a new notebook? Half the time I can’t hear Cortana, that’s progress? Pirating a user’s data is progress? Or is Microsoft trying to change Cortana into a paying service? Most of the time the everyday person gets the shaft. Another example of this.

  2. jojo said on March 6, 2020 at 7:31 pm

    What is your take on the change?

    I don’t case as I never use it.

    Will Cortana be there in two years?

    Well, being that I’m from the future, I can report that Cortana will still be here in 2 years.

    Furthermore, in 2039, Cortana will be absorbed onto the omnipotent AI god that takes over the universe that same year.

  3. notanon said on March 3, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    So Cortana is now a glorified version of Clippy???

    How the mighty have fallen.

    I remember watching YouTube videos on Cortana on Windows Phone & I was amazed how much better it was than Siri.

    Unfortunately, Microsoft failed on mobile phone, so Cortana was relegated to Windows 10, when Microsoft stupidly collected all the information from Cortana, thus earning Cortana the designation by some people on the internet as spyware.

    Microsoft should have collected zero information & telemetry on Contana (at least until Cortana had a chance to get popular), but they didn’t.

    We all know what happened to Clippy.

  4. nedarata said on March 1, 2020 at 11:01 am

    Me: Siri, what is most useless assistant?
    Siri: One moment, Alexa what is most useless assistant?
    Alexa: Cortana
    Me: Thanks Siri
    Cortana: You are welcome

  5. Peterc said on March 1, 2020 at 9:07 am

    ME: “Cortana! Who did I sleep with last night, and, based on what you heard, how would you rate my performance on a scale of 1 to 10?”

    CORTANA: “Did you mean to ask how I would rate your performance on a scale of *minus* 10 to 10?” ;-)

    But seriously, I have an aversion to eavesdropping and the mere *potential* for eavesdropping. We’ve all read about smart TVs phoning home and Echos serving up recordings of private conversations to acquaintances. And there’s a reason Edward Snowden cracks open his cell phones, clips the wires to the internal microphone, and relies on a wired headset that he can physically unplug. I’m sure voice assistants can be super convenient — I certainly appreciate the one on my GPS while I’m driving — but the potential for unwanted monitoring and surveillance creeps me out. (My GPS doesn’t have *nearly* enough memory to record and subsequently upload anything of consequence, and besides: it’s growing deaf in its old age!)

  6. ULBoom said on March 1, 2020 at 5:56 am

    Clippy, I loved Clippy. Clippy was cute and partially functional. The dog was stupid and Bob, a dork. Clippy rocked.

    Where’s Siri?

    If “Experience” is Cortana’s last name, it should be capitalized. Not even going to try to understand the rest of that dude’s gibberish.

  7. Harold said on February 29, 2020 at 10:54 pm

    You missed the important point:

    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.

    This means local accounts won’t use Cortana. Probably good news for most ordinary home users who don’t want to use this.

  8. Edland said on February 29, 2020 at 10:41 pm

    How to uninstall Cortana?

    1. prefersplants said on April 15, 2020 at 10:02 pm

      Use “HowtoGeek”s registry hack. Works a treat, replacing it with the searchbox.

  9. intelligencia said on February 29, 2020 at 9:30 pm

    Hello Everyone!

    As I am a rather paranoid individual especially as it relates to my Online privacy, I immediately disabled Cortana when I received my Windows 10 laptop four years ago.
    I Didn’t want to be bothered with another Microsoft Windows feature that I didn’t Trust; Didn’t Need!
    ( . . . and I certainly will Never purchase Alexa or other similar service)


    1. Rocco Siffredi said on March 15, 2020 at 8:29 pm

      My Feelings exactly, I don’t care what features and promises about this spyware, I would not be even consider using it.

  10. Anonymous said on February 29, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    Dear Microsoft, can we a get proper desktop windows search and start menu now?

  11. Anonymous said on February 29, 2020 at 4:41 pm

    Search for “disable cortana” and “open shell” = PC quality improved

  12. popcorn said on February 29, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    All I got out of that nebulous vocabulary was, ‘cortana gonna spy on you more’. m$ couldn’t help you find anything on your computer and now they wanna tie it into your keystrokes? Sounds like a keylogger to me.

  13. Muckets said on February 29, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    Cortana to me was a novelty at first (coming from Vista to Win.10), which lasted a few weeks (the voice function). It’s like the current stupid ‘Hey Google’. Who would possibly go around saying that. Someone with no life. In a staged setup commercial it’s perfect. How about showing all the ways and situations when it would get you wrong…you have to repeat etc…blah blah.

  14. JohnIL said on February 29, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    Its bad for people who bought into Cortana with those smart devices that supported Cortana. I guess Cortana is another Zune product that Microsoft simply failed to properly support. Then simply walked away from it leaving users wondering why they even bothered.

    1. barney said on March 6, 2020 at 7:39 pm


      Well, Zune kept on working after support ended, as it was just an mp3 player. As for Windows phones, those were still supported for the life of the product, and then some. If you bought one at the end of that last cycle, then that’s on you and you got what you paid for.

      Even Android and Apple OS have a limited life, where after a few years you may not get updates.

  15. ZeN said on February 29, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    About time too, feckin nonsense.

  16. xpict said on February 29, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    you missed some news:
    MS doesn’t verify apps coming from chrome store;
    Google change privacy protection from UK to US entity

    1. ilev said on February 29, 2020 at 6:22 pm

      You have missed some huge news : Microsoft stopped testing Windows updates since Windows 8, making all Windows users alpha testers.

      https:// www. microsoft. com/ en-us/ itshowcase/deploying-windows-10-and-managing-updates-at-microsoft

  17. MikeO said on February 29, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    Cortana who?

    1. Anonymous said on March 1, 2020 at 5:05 am


  18. SteveB said on February 29, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Always late to the party, always binding stuff into the O/S, always failing – instead of trying to take other’s established products on, why not be inventive ?

    1. Declan said on February 29, 2020 at 2:54 pm

      You would have thought that after binding early versions of Internet Explorer to the OS, and getting sued – globally – they would have learned their lesson. But noooooo.

  19. Anonymous said on February 29, 2020 at 11:21 am

    They’ve been getting it wrong since Bob.

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