Let Cortana Go

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Living in the UK I am used to the “US Only” nature of Microsoft’s release cycle. I remember at one point Bing Maps on my WindowsPhone actually began to deal with local public transport reasonably well just before WindowsPhone was cancelled.

One of those products is Cortana. It was supposed to be one of the most personal of personal assistants. In the UK it mostly didn’t track packages at all. It occasionally provided flight information but usually didn’t. It did cope with weather in Celsius so at least that worked. A mixed bag of some working things, some partially working things and a lot of stuff that never worked at all.

One of the new interfaces was voice. Cortana, as a personal assistant, would surely be part of a home speaker. Late in the day the Invoke speaker was announced and produced. It was the most expensive home speaker on the market and supported the US. Yes, the USA only.

As sales of the the second most expensive home speaker in the world tanked, only beaten in price by Apple’s Homepod, there seemed little hope for the rest of the planet getting this product. Microsoft announced a partnership with Amazon so that the Echo would get Cortana skills. With affordable Amazon speakers I could get Cortana to work for me using my voice at home. There were even demos at build.

Here I am in the UK. It’s July 2019. Can I use Cortana skills on my echo? Of course not. It’s “US Only”. Still unreleased for the rest of the planet.

Microsoft should really use the removal of Cortana as part of Windows 10 just to kill the product. It’s AI might be powering Office 365 functions but just let Cortana go. Once the mobile platform disappeared, and was followed by restricting Cortana functionality to the USA and giving up on smart speakers there wasn’t much point in Cortana. Let her go Microsoft. 

Comments (19)

19 responses to “Let Cortana Go”

  1. yaddamaster

    I'll take the contrarian view: three months ago (maybe even six) I would have agreed with you. Cortana was never positioned properly nor had adequate leverage to make inroads. Microsoft couldn't compete with Amazon and Google's built-in leverage for their assistants. When I walked into a Microsoft store the Invoke was always hidden way off in the corner. Even at Best Buy no one in the Microsoft are knew anything about it. Contrast that to Amazon's brick and mortar store where Alexa was prominent - everywhere.


    I assumed Cortana was dead. I mean, it is basically dead.


    But I don't think it has to be. Precious few people I know actually use their assistant to do anything. It's just another stupid device they purchased that doesn't really do anything useful let alone game-changing. AI (or what we're now apparently referring to as AI) is still in its infancy looking for a true application.


    What Microsoft really needs is a brand new marketing push. Bring back the brilliant minds of the early 90's that inhabited buildings 3 & 4. Get them into building 99 (MS Research) and start commercializing all of the hundreds of millions of dollars that are being spent. And start tying researcher's jobs to commercial and marketable products. Or at least incentivize them that way.


    Bottom line: Cortana is dead. But it doesn't need to stay dead. The market is still in its infancy.

  2. Jhambi

    Cortana please spin up an Ubuntu instance on Azure


  3. josephgerth

    Can someone give me a good argument in favor of these digital assistants? My experience (and I've yet to find someone who disagrees) is that they are an amusing distraction for about 10 minutes, then they are rendered useless by, at least their inconsistency, and at most their intrusiveness.


    Suppose I want to make a reminder for myself. Digital assistants would be great here, right? Until it misunderstands me and then I have to go back and type it in manually anyway. Or it doesn't give me all the options I want, so I have to edit it manually anyway. Or I'm in an area where I can't talk, so I have to create it manually anyway.


    And we all know the other side of the spectrum, where these things are compiling all this data on us.


    With all that being said, why? The only reason I can think of is some abstract feel-goodiness of advancing technology. I can also see why Amazon wants to advance its AI, since it sinks its claws deeper into its customer. But me? I see no use for anything like Cortana.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to josephgerth:

      My argument in favor is all of the times that I successfully create a reminder or set a timer or send a message. If it gets a word wrong, I just let it go; when the reminder comes I'll know what I meant. It seems like a fine option to have.

  4. harmjr

    I thank Microsoft cannot let Cortana die off. If they do they will be losing out on needed education and building back bone for other digital assistants. Cortana having access to all the app stores and deep tie into Windows 10 would help those trying to build their own Business digital assistant. Of course I they need to really invest into this or get out. They need to build easy tools for Cortana the equivalent of WordPress vs writing HTML.

  5. Tony Barrett

    You're not missing much. Invoke is dead. Cortana is dead in reality. Windows Mobile is long gone. App store is dead. UWP is dead. Groove Music is dead. MS must spend most of their time in mourning!


    MS are so US focused, when they next announce something, just remember, outside the US it either won't exist at all, or will be totally crippled.

    • Lauren Glenn

      In reply to ghostrider:

      Some of that is not just centrist positions of the US. A lot of it can be attributed to laws and such. Look at GDPR in the EU which we don't have in the US. A failure of any kind results in huge fines and then higher risk.... so they'd not release to those first in the EU.

  6. navarac

    My sentiments exactly. It'll be no loss outside the US

  7. wright_is

    At least you are in the UK and get some of these features eventually. I live in Germany and Cortana for Android and iOS are still not compatible with our devices (Nexus 5P, Huawei Mate 10 Pro, Mate 9 Pro, P-Smart, Samsung S8 and S9 and an iPhone XR). If you go directly to the web page on the Play Store and try and install the app (searching for it on the device in the Store doesn't bring it up), it just says that your device is not compatible...

    According to Microsoft, the backend infrastructure (the cloud servers) are not in place... Given how much Microsoft are given to hyping their cloud activities, this is an exceedlingly poor advert.

  8. Lordbaal

    I would just like to play a game with her.

  9. skane2600

    IMO smart speakers are more of a fad than a key technology. The sweet spot for voice recognition and response has always been enabling functionality that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to achieve without voice control. Within that most-important use-case Cortona on the Windows phone was superior to all the other options.

    • Lauren Glenn

      In reply to skane2600:

      I admit that I was not one for these smart assistants, but I do like using them for basic things.. reminders, timers, turning on/off lights, or in the case of Alexa..... a basic alarm system that monitors for broken glass, intrusions, etc.


      If I want to know the weather, I can get it. If I'm in the middle of programming and just need a basic question answered, I can do that. It makes a good speaker for a speakerphone. (you can just say, "Alexa, press 345 Pound to be the same as 345# on a touch tone keypad ... and Google Home can do that too).


      I just hate all the assistants in things like remotes, and phones. I don't want Bixby in my S10 but I can't turn it off. Cortana can be hacked to be disabled.... It's good to have but they get annoying and when they stop being supported or aren't useful (Cortana and SMS on Android comes to mind now), then I don't need them.

    • Bats

      In reply to skane2600:

      Smart speakers, a fad? Are you kidding? No. I believe they are here to stay and will eventually evolve into other things that "better" innovators will invent. Hoever, they are not a fad. Smart speakers, like the Google Home or Amazon Echo make living today feel like a Star Trek episode. Through smart speakers, I can control my thermostat, find the weather, request info on the fly, turn on lights anywhere in the house, order pizza.....OMG....there is just so much more. FAD? LOL.....reading something like this, calling smart speakers a fad, reminds me of a famous saying a long time ago. "Whatcha talking about Willis?"

    • wright_is

      In reply to skane2600:

      Yes, Google's Assistant makes so many mistakes and looking at the records, 98% of its actual recordings were never triggered with "OK Google" - a lot of wind with me walking the dog (listening to a podcast, so not talking), office conversations, TV etc. When I did call it, I'd usually have to repeat the command 3 or 4 times, before it would recognize it (and I have a clear British accent, although my German is clear, but accented), or I just gave up in frustration and typed in the query or waited until I got home/to the office to type it in on a real keyboard in comfort.

      In the end, I just disabled it. No more recordings of private conversations and no more frustration at it not recognizing what I want when I actually ask it something.

  10. illuminated

    Voice assistants are the great waste of computing and development resources of this decade. Whenever I tried to use one of so called assistants I felt like I was assisting them.

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