Cortana Gets New Smart Home Features

Posted on January 20, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan in Microsoft with 31 Comments

Microsoft is advancing Cortana’s smart home capabilities with new features this week. The company started rolling out two new features: Scenes and Rules, which allows users to automate their smart home, as first spotted by Windows Central.

Cortana Scenes are essentially different scenarios you can create with your smart home devices and control them via Cortana. For example, you can create a scene for every morning where you can ask Cortana to turn on the lights, control the temperature of your house, start playing music, turn on your smart kettle, etc. and every morning you can ask Cortana to trigger that scene to carry all the actions out automatically. It seems like you will be able to connect as many devices as you want as part of a scene, so you can go all in with the automation here.

Rules are equally interesting. It basically allows you to automate your smart home devices. You can turn on the lights in your room every day at 7 am, for example. Or simply ask Cortana turn off your smart lights in 10 minutes or an hour, etc.

Cortana’s new Scenes and Rules features come at a point where it seems like Microsoft has given up with the personal assistant. The company announced earlier this week that the company wants Cortana to be something that’s accessible via Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, instead of working as a standalone personal assistant. And before you go and comment “I thought Cortana was dead?”, just remember that none of these new features contradicts what Microsoft said earlier this week.

Either way, the company wants all of its users to be able to use Cortana without necessarily having a device built for Cortana and it kind of makes sense. But unless you are a die-hard Microsoft fan who relies heavily on the company’s ecosystem, there is literally no reason to use Cortana over Alexa and Google Assistant.

Tagged with ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (31)

31 responses to “Cortana Gets New Smart Home Features”

  1. jaredthegeek

    When Cortana emerged it was by far the best assistant and then it seemed to really languish as a personal assistant while Google Assistant was becoming much better. I really miss using Cortana but I am all in with Google Assistant now.

  2. donaselfies

    Sounds like some group in the bowels of MS didn't get the memo that Cortana is dead/EOL, and are continuing their busywork of useless minor updates to it.

    Like those Japanese soldiers that had to be talked out of the jungle they were still hiding in 30yrs after the war had ended.

    Memos. Read them.

  3. maelstrom

    But unless you are a die-hard Microsoft fan who relies heavily on the company’s ecosystem, there is literally no reason to use Cortana over Alexa and Google Assistant.

    I'm no fan at all but how can someone be oblivious like that to privacy concerns raised repeatedly against both Amazon and Google goes beyond my understanding! Seriously.

  4. filmboy

    I have made a commitment to Microsoft since 1990 and I feel as though I have thrown away a lot of money. I have had a Windows phone since its inception and had Windows on a Compaq PDA. I don't want to learn another OS. I am comfortable with my HP Elite x3 and the Windows OS. Why is Microsoft abandoning people like me, who have been loyal customers?

    • Jorge Garcia

      In reply to filmboy:

      It wasn't an intentional betrayal. Microsoft TRIED to beat everybody out of the gate with a Mobile OS, but failed to identify the best target audience and time it correctly. They also tried to beat the forthcoming ChromeBook with Windows RT, but that was also the wrong product, at the wrong time, aimed at the wrong people. They were just not nimble enough to turn the Windows Battleship into the wind fast enough to catch onto the next big thing.

    • mmcewan

      In reply to filmboy:

      Learning that Microsoft is not your personal friend is like learning that Santa isn't real. The facts are the facts. You cannot shame a machine (Microsoft is a machine) into doing what you want. Machines are never your friend, no matter how much you love them. They are just dumb machines.

      Get a machine that is better than your old machine.

      I ditched my HP Elite X3 just a few days ago. Have a Pixel 3XL now. This is my first Android phone. It is a beautiful machine. The apps on Android with the same names as on Windows Phone are much improved. The stock interface of the Pixel is what I am using currently. It is easy to get around in. By comparison, although the live tiles on WP had a tiny bit of utility, that is really all they had. Believe me, you'll get over it. The switching utility between pages and apps on the Pixel is smart, designed to be useful. It is quite an upgrade from WP's old UI.

      Take using LastPass as a prime example: on WP, you've got nothing for usability compared to using it on Android, where it actually can pop up and fill in your user name and passwords as required. Just like on a PC.

      Want news? It's right there, two swipes to the right, all the time, no need to poke a tile or an icon to get it going.

      Actually, much of what happened to WP's GUI when it went to Windows Mobile 10 reflects what was already happening in Android. So I would say the changeover from WMobile is not the shocker that it could have been.

      Where I found the most difficulty was getting my contacts list out of Outlook and into my Google contacts list. Ended up having to import my contacts export file into Gmail on the web, as that seems to be the smartest interface that can properly translate a CSV file export (from your Outlook contacts) without messing up all the data by transposing it into the wrong fields.

  5. aparlette

    It would be nice if the connected home features worked with Cortana on Xbox. That's the place it makes the most sense to me and yet I can only do that from my Windows PC.

  6. casualadventurer

    Cortana makes sense as the digital assistant for Windows devices. It's what I use in my home office. I have Alexa everywhere else in the house, but when I'm working I don't need to control the lights in the living room or the temperature in the bedroom. Instead I use Cortana to quickly open apps, do math equations, look up simple facts for articles, and make quick entries into my work calendar. I think Microsoft should work on integrating Cortana more into the OS and its apps, rather than trying to go head-to-head with "consumer" AI's like Alexa and Google.

  7. Martin Klimke

    Very confusing. On the one hand Nadella talks about having lost the voice assistent race, on the other hand MS is trying to add features to the product competitors had for years?

  8. roastedwookie

    :)) useless...we've had these available everywhere where Alexa and GA are available. No sense in doing a piggy back ride with MS's failed assistant

  9. dontbe evil

    It’s Official: Satya Nadella Confirms Cortana Defeat

    Posted on January 18, 2019 by Paul Thurrott

    Cortana Gets New Smart Home Features

    Posted on January 20, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan

    Pay attention to the authors

  10. aaastartech

    Unless you trust MS with your very personal data more then Amazon and lot lot lot more then Google.


  11. irfaanwahid

    And which device(s) to you use these Smart skills/scenes on?

  12. glenn8878

    I can’t figure out what devices will benefit. Maybe in another life, I’ll find a use for it

  13. sglewis

    It’s playing catch-up with alexa on these features with the obvious caveat that nearly every smart device works with Alexa, many with Google and almost none with HomeKit or Cortana.

    With dots for $30 and broad industry support for sensors, bulbs, switches, video devices, doorbells, etc - this won't work.

  14. sandeepm

    IFTTT has 200 connected services... how many does Cortana have? But it is still good to have scenes trigger stuff via IFTTT as IFTTT lacks scene functionality

  15. aerofann24

    I wonder if this means that the brand new Invoke I had just gotten before the holiday on "super sale" for $50 will eventually stop working, or if cortana will continue work there "as usual". Or... If we have indeed entered the twilight zone... a firmware upgrade or some software update will turn it into a Google Home or Alexa device?!

  16. toms

    Unless you trust MS with your very personal data more then Amazon and lot lot lot more then Google.

  17. Finley

    Cortana is the new Microsoft Launcher

  18. lordbaal1

    "But unless you are a die-hard Microsoft fan who relies heavily on the company’s ecosystem, there is literally no reason to use Cortana over Alexa and Google Assistant." Unless you are one your desktop or laptop.

  19. YouWereWarned

    As the last remaining Windows Phone user and multi-Invoke owner, hope springs eternal:

    "Hey Siri, ask Google to see if Facebook can tell Instagram to get me a beer, and make sure Nest sends an appropriate thermal offset to the fridge for a COLD one this time"


    Crap...I'll get it myself...

Leave a Reply