It’s Official: Satya Nadella Confirms Cortana Defeat

Posted on January 18, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Smart Home, Windows 10 with 136 Comments

In a stunning bit of transparency, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella confirmed that Cortana will never be competitive with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. So it will instead be recast as a skill for those more popular assistants, as has long been rumored.

“Would it be better off, for example, to make Cortana a valuable skill that someone who is using Alexa can call? Or should we try to compete with Alexa? We, quite frankly, decided that we would do the former,” Mr. Nadella reportedly said at a media day at Microsoft’s Redmond campus to which Thurrott.com was not invited. “Because Cortana needs to be that skill for anyone who is a Microsoft Office 365 subscriber.”

Microsoft announced that it would integrate Cortana with Amazon Alexa, and it finally enabled the first version of that integration last year. But Nadella confirmed that he wants to work with Google Assistant as well.

“You should also be able to use [Cortana] on Google Assistant,” he also reportedly said. “You should be able to use it on Alexa, just like you use our apps on Android or iOS. So that’s at least how we want to go.”

According to reports, Nadella said that Microsoft saw what was happening in the smart speaker market and realized that it would always be an also-ran, just as it was in smartphones. But this time, the software giant felt that it could still be a major player, just behind the scenes. And that strategy actually makes some sense, if belatedly: Cortana now powers many lower-tier digital assistants, including those from carmaker BMW.

“The challenge is, exactly what would we be able to do in that category that is going to be unique?,” Nadella said of smart speakers.

The challenge, really, is that Microsoft never made any serious effort to compete in this market. And that it let it fall through its fingers years ago, despite repeatedly talking about making the “next wave” after mobile. Ambient computing is the next wave, now the current wave. And whether Nadella’s new approach will work over the long term, and make it a major player in this computing wave, is still very much unclear.

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Comments (136)

136 responses to “It’s Official: Satya Nadella Confirms Cortana Defeat”

  1. RobertJasiek

    Speech assistants can have different uses and fulfil different purposes. Currently Cortana is designed for online, USA-bound use. It might be developed for other uses, such as offline computer-local use for absolute privacy and compliance with the laws regardless of the country in which the computer is used. Microsoft lacks vision by only running after what others are doing: spyware for the joy of secret services.

  2. Ron McMahon

    Paul, Is your not being invited to that event best understood as a snub / deliberate exclusion, or was it just that you are outside of the realm of the audience they wanted or?

  3. cadrethree

    Well that's interesting. How much longer before Nadella wakes up and decides that Windows has no shot? I'm being serious. Such a defeatist attitude. Come from behinds and long shot gambits work all the time, but not at Microsoft anymore. If you come up lame you go behind the red barn with Nadella. They are becoming a one trick pony like Apple with Azure.

    • sandeepm

      I dont like the way these new MS executives announce abandonment... very unprofessional way of dealing with their partners and consumers. If that guy who was sent on exile to Japan for one year had not announced that they are pulling the plug on mobile, service providers would not have removed their UWP apps from Windows 10 so fast... that includes apps for my bank and for my car. Clearly, this is sabotage and deserves a class action. First they used to say that it is a 3 horse race and now they say that Windows is a dead horse (Microsoft internal slogan these days). Microsoft is infatuated with horses. In reply to cadrethree:


    • ragingthunder

      In reply to cadrethree:

      Desktop is still where the primer experience lies. I think the target demographics of the PC hasn't gone anywhere. Enterprises, government, military, education, enthusiasts etc. People who rely on iPads and Androids for their daily computing needs have really only superficial needs - like checking up on the latest gossip or writing an e-mail. Any task that requires raw computing power is still done on the PC - photo/video editing, software development, engineering modelling, audio production, data analytics etc. The PC isn't going anywhere - just because your average Joe prefers his iTab over the PC. And PC is still = Windows.

    • warren

      In reply to cadrethree:


      "No shot"? Dude, you know Windows still has 90+% desktop marketshare, right? Apple isn't gaining on them. Desktop Linux isn't gaining on them.


      Pretty much the whole world runs on Active Directory and Office, too. There are outliers here and there, but there is no other major player in either of those areas.

      • A_lurker

        In reply to warren:

        That is true about Windows now. However, I detected a bit of sarcasm in the post. Nadella is all about Azure and anything he put on the cloud. The fundamental flaw for Windows is this abandons the desktop OS to being an after thought. Cloud based apps and operations do not care what the user OS is only the browser can properly render it. Remove a major reason for one to have Windows then watch users drift away.


        The importance of Windows is not the OS but the ecosystem built around it. Remove the ecosystem by going to the cloud and Windows is just another OS.

      • cadrethree

        In reply to warren:

        Yeah, and no one loses their job by buying IBM. Software has a low barrier to entry. Those four foundations I mentioned in the post above for Microsoft, think of those as barriers to entry. Aerospace and automotive industries have a crazy amount of barriers to entry, but companies and countries have successfully penetrated them in the past. Azure has a respectable lead as number 2 in the industry, but eventually economics of scale and new technologies will see other players rise. Put a clock on Azure. I can't remember the last time Microsoft successfully fought off a near peer rival. They are eating all the low-hanging fruit, and the industry in barely in it's infancy. They better hope Google pulls a Nadella or Maverick and retires from the battlefield cause it didn't look right.


        Motorola probably thought they had the flip phone market on lockdown with the Moto razr, until smartphones happened. Windows 10 might be the last traditional OS there will ever be created. 90% in a slowly becoming niche segment is commendable. The biggest problem with Microsoft is that every product they offer has a comparable or superior product offered by their rivals. If they disappeared as a company tomorrow, people would just shrug their shoulders.

      • Greg Green

        In reply to warren:

        Desktops sales are declining, desktop usage is declining, various groups all have mobile internet traffic exceeding desktop traffic, mobile gaming beats console and pc gaming by a wide margin, and Windows is barely ahead of android in usage.

        • warren

          In reply to Greg Green:


          Just because you have a giant blind spot in your visibility into how people actually use computers, doesn't mean it isn't happening.


          There's something like 1.5 billion Windows machines in the real world, being used every day to get things done. Okay? Architects, engineers, scientists, sales teams, marketers, graphic artists, musicians, government desk jobs, taxi dispatchers, on and on and on. Hotel & airport check-in counters? Windows. Accountants? Windows. Tons of Windows in the military.


          All those people using these Windows machines have Android or iOS devices too, of course, but those devices aren't replacing Windows for the fundamental tasks they do that make them money.


          Mobile vs. desktop isn't an either/or proposition. Just because you take a five minute break to read a news site while sitting on the shitter, or because you play Forge of Empires on your phone, doesn't mean the Windows machine back at your desk is about to be thrown away.


          Desktop sales have declined in the 2010s, yes, but that's because home & business users are keeping their computers for longer. Why upgrade? It's not the 90's and 00's anymore, where every new version of Windows (3.1, 95, 98, XP, Vista) demanded a big CPU and disk upgrade.... in fact, the requirements for Windows 7 and Windows 10 1809 are exactly the same! A Core i7-2770 chip from late 2011 remains completely usable in early 2019.... slam in an SSD & another 8GB of RAM and you could keep it going for another five years.



          • Greg Green

            In reply to warren:

            The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (another government agency no one heard of) has the following US usage of devices:

            smartphone, 64%

            laptop 46%

            smart tv/box 34%

            tablet 32%

            desktop 30%

            wearables 8%


            Desktop usage is on a 7 year decline, laptops have plateaued after very slight decline, and everything else is rising.


            Who has the blind spot?

            • Stooks

              In reply to Greg Green:

              What do they define as usage? Am I suppose to make 100% with a collection of these? So for me it would be desktop, smartphone and laptop?


              We have a bunch of devices that overlap in many areas. I can use email on all of those except the smart tv/box. To me the best experience for email would be a desktop computer. However it is NOT the most convenient at times.

          • fbman

            In reply to warren:

            "Desktop sales have declined in the 2010s, yes, but that's because home & business users are keeping their computers for longer. Why upgrade? It's not the 90's and 00's anymore, where every new version of Windows (3.1, 95, 98, XP, Vista) demanded a big CPU and disk upgrade.... in fact, the requirements for Windows 7 and Windows 10 1809 are exactly the same! A Core i7-2770 chip from late 2011 remains completely usable in early 2019.... slam in an SSD & another 8GB of RAM and you could keep it going for another five years."


            This is so true, in the early 00's I would upgrade my pc yearly, sometimes twice yearly. I recently built a new pc (I dont buy store bought computers, I custom build), a new gen AMD Ryzen X2600 with 32Gig of ram. It replaced a 6 year old computer, which in all honestly a ram upgrade would have kept that machine running for at least another 4 years.

          • sandeepm

            you may want to wake up to reality... people spend a lot more time on their mobile devices these days than on desktops and laptops. And it will be even worse for Windows after foldables become real. It is all over for the laggers In reply to warren:


    • JimP

      In reply to cadrethree:


      I've never heard it confirmed by my understanding is the the Invoke speaker actually used Linux, not Windows.

      • cadrethree

        In reply to JimP:


        Nadella's whole deal is Azure. Anything that isn't Windows (Azure) needs to go. The old Windows first mentality has become Azure first and only. Tunnel vision at it's finest. Microsoft had four foundations to a stable, unassailable ecosystem. Mobile, Windows, Office, and Azure. All are interconnected and reinforce each other. Google has knocked down one, working on number two with Windows. The last two will fall fast. It's just a matter of time.

  4. rmac

    From Cortana to Edge, through to UI frameworks such as XAML and WinForms which have gone opensource, it seems MS is getting out of any kind of interface, with the exception of Surface + Office. All it needs is for Windows to become an OS just for Surface + Office and MS has re-positioned itself as an Office + cloud offering only.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to rmac:

      Somewhat tangential, ignoring Outlook, the Office program I use most is Excel. At least 5-fold more usage than Access, at least 20-fold more than Word. Given my own spreadsheet habits, developed prior to becoming an Excel user, Surface and HP keyboards are equally off-putting for me. Thus, I just don't get a Surface + Office synergy. Gimme a Lenovo or Dell laptop any time instead of HP laptops or any Surface.

  5. hrlngrv

    Could it be that when potential ODMs for new MSFT services and software look at how PC OEMs have done that those ODMs run screaming to any alternative to MSFT? Putting this another way, could it be possible that only MSFT wants a new market just like the PC market has been?

    In any event, MSFT didn't build much of its own hardware to run Cortana, and neither did ODMs. How could it have been successful? Maybe PCs, but hasn't MSFT learned yet that users don't want to use PCs for everything MSFT would prefer? Can MSFT actually adapt to PCs ceasing to be the focus of most people's digital lives?

  6. docpaul

    Remember back when, briefly, Cortana was the best, most powerful, most functional voice assistant.

  7. ebraiter

    Paul is exaggerating things a bit. Not really a "defeat". More of an adjustment.

    When the latest Win 10 19H1 build included the splitting of Cortana and the search engine, it is not surprising of this news.

    With the split it will be easy to turn off Cortana completely in the future if Microsoft completely ditches Cortana - although I'm sure large companies didn't want Cortana to begin with.

    [Cortana is disabled on my computers.]

  8. WaltC

    Good news, and I hope this will be the end of Microsoft's "copy the substandard software" era! Let those companies have the headaches--meanwhile let Microsoft move on to software people actually use and want! Microsoft can work on Ease of Access narration for handicapped people all it wants, and I'm sure they will since that is a legitimate part of Windows. I like seeing Microsoft confident enough to concentrate on its its core capabilities as opposed to copying the heck out of second-rate OS companies! Good job, Microsoft!

    • solomonrex

      In reply to WaltC:

      Microsoft invented this for xbox! They just didn't follow through. Kinect, Cortana, Bing, they invented it as much as Google did (Google was hardly the first search engine).

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to solomonrex:

        . . . Google was hardly the first search engine

        Indeed, just as MSFT was hardly the first microcomputer OS or productivity software vendor. Being first in some aspect of tech doesn't mean much. Just ask Xerox.

        MSFT is moving forward with Azure and various other software and services for business customers. Windows, Office and Xbox are still around because they're still generating considerable revenues, and in the cases of Windows and Office also profits. However, MSFT doesn't seem to know how to become a major player in the tech consumer market any more, possibly because it doesn't want to become a major hardware vendor itself and because other hardware makers have no intention of becoming the zombie army PC OEMs have become.

  9. kcarson97404

    It's the right call for Microsoft, but it does make you wonder what could have been. Cortana had a superior interface and its tight integration with Windows Phone back in the day was superior to Siri and Google Assistant. But with the phone dead, it was misguided to integrate Cortana into Windows 10 PC. Nobody wants to talk to their laptop. Makes you wonder if they had more aggressively moved into the smart speaker space instead of counting on the "billions of PCs" to be the primary interaction for Cortana, if they couldn't have maybe made this work.


    Just another case of a promising and unique start to a consumer device, only to grow stagnant and die.

  10. Saarek

    I unplugged my Kinect a month after the update forced Cortana on my XBOX, what an unwelcome update that was. Instead of the near instant "Xbox" commands you had to say "Hey Cortana" and wait 3 or more seconds for the piece of sh*t to reply and do something simple.


    Only found out a few weeks ago that you can disable Cortana and go back to the XBOX commands, but as MS killed Kinect anyway I can't be bothered plugging it back in.

  11. ponsaelius

    Redmond has probably run out of the supply of white flags now.

  12. mebby

    "The challenge, really, is that Microsoft never made any serious effort to compete in this market. And that it let it fall through its fingers years ago, despite repeatedly talking about making the “next wave” after mobile. Ambient computing is the next wave, now the current wave." Seems like MS does this a lot. Seeing the future and then making half-hearted efforts and then pulling back and giving up.

  13. knickabocka

    After their mobile missteps and other products they barely supported is this a surprise to anyone? Or are we just surprised he said it publicly?

  14. Chris_Kez

    Where were these quotes sourced from? Paul typically cites this stuff.

  15. mmcpher

    I understand that Nadella is the acknowledged Master of undermining Microsoft's consumer products and then courageously declaring unconditional surrender, so well done once again Satya!


    But what sort of nonsense is that, "Cortana will be a skill that anyone who subscribes to Office 365 will need"? So they are going to integrate Alexa, except for Office 365? So not only are we going to keep Cortana, that pretty loser, around on zombie life-support, we are going to chain her to Office 365, just to make those products and services less attractive and more complicated?

  16. ph-sth

    Generally, the sooner Microsoft stops bottling it every time it tries something, the better. This, however, I'm not too fussed about.


    I'm no fan of voice assistants - there's a Google Home Mini Speaker in this room that I was given for Christmas 2017. It remains in its box. It only came out of it once while I tested the audio quality by playing some music through it and I found out, funnily enough, that my smart speaker is crap at being a speaker.


    I can live without Cortana and the rest, frankly I'll turn the lights on and off at the switch as I enter and leave a room, like I have for the rest of my life. There's so little I've ever found that it's not easier to just do manually yourself. What's more, voice recognition remains pathetic on these devices - there's nothing fun about constantly hollering the same thing at your device while it misinterprets it ridiculously as if it didn't even try.


    A couple of things Cortana did get right back on Windows Phone: reading your incoming messages back to you (what's the point of using voice recognition to send garbled messages to people if the thing can't read the replies, Google Assistant?) and letting you redictate voice messages a sentence at a time. If I need to use Alexa or Google Assistant to access Cortana, though, no thanks. It defeats the object perfectly.

    • jgraebner

      In reply to ph-sth:

      It amazes me how often with these devices the same people who say that they don't work well also admit that they haven't used them to any serious extent. Our Google Home very rarely misunderstands a request.

      • ph-sth

        In reply to jgraebner:


        I'll bear in mind how well it works for you the next time I'm making the ninth attempt at getting Google Assistant to send a simple text message on my phone while I'm driving.


        Ultimately, until I can have a proper conversation with it without having to learn specific phrases it understands, I'm not interested. A few weeks ago, I asked Google Assistant for the football fixtures that day. It told me the first three and then told me to go and look the rest up for myself. Woo.


        And then there's that ridiculous bug when it's got something wrong, I say "cancel" because I can't be bothered fighting with it, and it gives me the dictionary definition of the word 'cancel'.


        Oh, and then the time I asked it to search the internet for something and it couldn't do it. This is Google for pity's sake - and it can't search the internet!

  17. Polycrastinator

    I think this is the right move. The truth is that I've already invested in Google Home, but if I have a way to interact with my work/Office 365 items I'll actually use Cortana occasionally, which is something I do not do right now. Even if it's "Hey Cortana, what's on my work calendar for today?" or similar.

  18. sharpsone

    Not everyone wants a spy on their counter top...Alexa is involved with enough criminal cases to raise one's eyebrow and reconsider security and privacy practices of corporate America. Besides the convenience these assistants attempt to offer can often be outperformed by a few simple taps or getting off ones ass for 5 seconds.

  19. fbman

    Cortana, was basically a US only feature. I know it worked in select markets, but not as feature rich as the US version.


    So how could they compete, the competition is embracing the world market, where MS still think the US is the pc market.. they never stood a chance.


  20. Xatom

    That both MS and Apple have totally blown this space is amazing. Tech eats its own children. How long before someone eats Google and Amazon?

  21. dontbe evil

    just make a deal with amazon and merge alexa and cortana, you can choose if call it cortana or alexa with their own voice in the settings

  22. dontbe evil

    other websiite titles:

    "Microsoft wants Cortana to complement, not compete with, Alexa and Google Assistant"

    "Microsoft to make Cortana an Alexa skill on other platforms, eyes Google Assistant tie-up"

    thurrot:

    "It’s Official: Satya Nadella Confirms Cortana Defeat"ant tie-up

  23. Mike Brady

    I had Cortana on my PC. It wasin my living room with the xbox and kinect. While it was neat and worked well, I couldn't think of anything interesting to do with it on my PC. It was nice to turn on/off my tv and xbox by voice and give it a few commands, but if anyone else was in the room making any noise, it did not understand me.


    Before I knew it my very modest house became fully bugged by Jeff Bezos with 6 of his echo devices. I finally disconnected the Kinect.


    Like many times before, Microsoft was early and had a great product, but it just sat there and collected dust. The days of them being able to throw out a platform and let everyone else run with it were over a long time ago.


    Their dev tools are still great and C# is still getting better after all these years. It seems they're still going strong there. I really like the approach they're taking in the dev world of playing nice with whatever tech emerges.

  24. SYNERDATA

    I would like it if Microsoft would just state when announcing new products and services that they are going to abandon them in X-amount of time so that I know in advance not to develop for them, for after the past decade of development for Microsoft products and platforms, all of them were cancelled before my products were even ready for them, and all the money I spent developing was written off by Microsoft.


    How was I to have known that the Surface line would not be cancelled long ago?


    One has to assume anything new by Microsoft would be cancelled, and the few exceptions are too few to count on at the bank.

  25. brettscoast

    It's good to see transparency coming from the top at Microsoft god knows its long overdue by why the non invite for thurrott.com especially at a media event I mean if you're going to be transparent


  26. Cain69

    "And that it let it fall through its fingers years ago,..." Sooner or later they will have to cup those fingers to catch something!

    Web services ... Mobile … Smart Assistant ... way too much slipping thru their fingers.

  27. whiplash55

    Bummer, I'll never use anything made by Google and I'll never use Alexa either.

  28. charms55

    On my windows phone, I could tell Cortana to call my wife. She would ask home or mobile. Then she would confirm the call and dial it. For the life of me, I can't get Google to do the same. I must be missing something?

  29. chaad_losan

    Epic Fail after Epic Fail.

  30. markbyrn

    I’m more upset that Thurott was snubbed

  31. Bats

    WOW...what a major, MAJOR defeat. Cortana's new role is going to be an Assistant's Assistant? LOL...seriously? I guess Cortana is going to work like "Mercedes Me" when I want to remotely start my car from anywhere (in the world).


    This reminds me of a low rated TV show's whose time slot is about to be changed from primetime weekdays to Saturday late night. 


    Let's face it, .... not one has used use Cortana and no one ever will. That's because it's a dumb AI and it had no chance to succeed, because it's a Microsoft product. Microsoft products just don't succeed because of one simple fact: bad management. They don't know what they are doing at Redmond. The company lost in smartphones; lost in gaming consoles; lost in Augmented Reality; and now (officially) Artificial Intelligence. That's just to name a few! Isn't the company just tired of losing?  


    When they lost in smartphones, they develop smartphone apps for Google and Apple. When they lost (not officially) the console wars, they campaign for "open" cross console play for Minecraft and Fortnite. Now...Cortana....is going to be reduced an Assistant's Assistant. You know what's funny? If "Masterchief" is gonna need help with anything, the first thing he's gonna say is either "Hey Google" or "Alexa....."


    So I guess this means, no more further development for Cortana other than Office functionality? LOL...Office? Surprising (#rolleyes #sarcasm). 


    I guess that's it? Other than Xbox there are no other Microsoft products that are susceptible to failure. That's because there aren't anymore. With regards to Xbox, Microsoft will fail with that too. It would take a colossal screw up by Sony to ever lose to Microsoft NOW and in the FUTURE. 


    So.....does this mean that the Harman Kardon speaker will soon be on sale for $20?

  32. skborders

    It is a shame that Microsoft starts out with something that works better than the competition and then let's it sit there and rot.

  33. trekrich

    This makes sense, it was not integrated into hardware very well. They made no attempt to make a decent microphone, that someone can add to an xbox. And it was rammed down your throat in Windows 10. They would be wasting money at this point trying to compete. They have some very good tech, that can be put into microsoft products. The cortana tech will be really good in office 365.

  34. mrdrwest

    Microsoft is an enterprise company: Consumers are CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, and IT pros.


    The other Consumers are a distraction; keep them engaged, and string them along for the next experiment.

  35. provision l-3

    I think responses to this are a little overblown. People are confusing AI/ML* with the voice they hear when they interact with AI/ML. The voice is just one of the ways you interact Cortana, Google Assistant and Siri (I know less about Alexa and it's interactions). These all are names for broader AI/ML. MS offering up it's AI/ML as a service to another interactive voice doesn't take away from what it does or mean some sort of defeat on the AI/ML front it just means one of the ways you interact with it has changed. I don't see how this approach is any different than what MS already does.


    *Someone is going to point out ML is a subset of AI, I know. They are just often discussed separately when it comes to digital assistants so I included both.

  36. sandeepm

    To me this sounds like another attention gathering fake news attempt. My interpretation of what he said is that he does not want Microsoft to compete in the smart speaker market but leverage Cortana skills in areas where there is actual value add.


    For me, Cortana adds value by allowing me to speak to my GLAS thermostat to have it turn on / off lights (using WiFi cloud based switches integrated with Cortana via IFTTT) ... it saves me from having to walk around to each switch when I want to turn on all the outside lights.


    It would have been great to see them advance with Cortana on phones (like Windows Mobile), to be able to interact with your Phone while driving... (read / write emails and texts, read web articles like this one, post comments like this one, etc.), but there is no chance they will be able to compete with Google and Apple on that front since they don't own the consumer platforms anymore, with Windows on the way to becoming a thing of the past.


    The smart speaker in the kitchen is just nonsense. I would never go for it.

  37. mrdrwest

    "Cortana" is the code name for AI Dominus.

  38. gregsedwards

    Cortana isn't dead. It's not a defeated platform. The truth is Cortana was never a platform in the first place. If Cortana is a platform, then your keyboard or mouse is a platform.

    A more apt description of Cortana might be a feature. That is, it's an interface to the devices, services, and platforms you already use. And we should think of Cortana support like mouse or keyboard support. Some devices, services, and platforms support Cortana; others don't.

    It's obvious that Cortana is going to evolve into a service that perhaps operates differently than we've seen in the past. It's going to be packaged differently in Windows moving forward, much the same way that you guys keep saying Edge should be separated from the core of the OS. There are clear advantages to that strategy, including being better able to interoperate with other assistant-based platforms and use cases.

    And that's all Microsoft is saying here. But keep on advancing this "Cortana is dead" narrative that you clearly want to be true, guys.

    Again, if any Cortana defeatist wants to sell me their HK Invoke or Johnson Controls GLAS Thermostat, I'll gladly take it off your hands.

  39. valisystem

    Google has built Google Assistant on the vast store of data it has about our personal lives.

    Microsoft has unique access to the business lives of people in companies that rely on MS services - Teams, email, calendar, CRM, and everything else in the business world - and Google does not have access to that information. That's where the opportunity is for MS to bring the same kind of machine learning/AI to come up with helpful inferences and predictions, and deliver them thru Cortana.

    Accessing Cortana by voice is only part of it. If Cortana can surface useful information about work processes that MS has unique access to, that could be valuable. "You're waiting for feedback from Joe on this project; reach out to him because he's about to be out of the office for two weeks." Or whatever else the algorithms can come up with.

  40. joeaxberg

    Todays’s Microsoft is a very different Microsoft. I wonder if this is just secret code for “we’re giving up on Cortana.”


    In the consumer space, I think they are trying to figure out and focus on what they can actually succeed at - and that is going to be a very limited set of services and devices.


    This certainly is not the old predatory annoying Microsoft.


    I hated that old Microsoft and would go out of my way to avoid them.


    They’re giving up on Cortana I think, but overall I still really like the new Microsoft. I never thought there would be a day when I would be a champion of Microsoft’s services and tools. I really like Visual Studio Code. I now use it as the standard IDE for all my programming classes. Visual Studio and C# is awesome these days. DotNet Core is cool. I prefer Azure over AWS. I think they will be a good steward of GitHub. So much better than the old “our way or the highway” Microsoft.


    Now if Microsoft would just create a slick desktop Linux distro of its own, one that ran Office, OneDrive, all their developer tools, and Bash.

  41. waethorn

    Heh. When are you we going to start seeing Windows 10 PC's randomly cackling the dreaded Amazon Hillary laugh?

  42. Yaggs

    If Microsoft wants to be a player in this space then they need to develop a surface branded smart speaker (or two) that includes Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant... I would replace all my Google home's with that right now if it worked with all 3 assistants seamlessly and had decent sound quality... I am pretty sure those assistants can be licensed.

  43. dcdevito

    Not to undermine this site, but Ben Thompson and others went to a (secret?) PR event at Microsoft where he discussed this. Stratechery has a whole transcript of the event, it's a great read. I'll share on the forums later

  44. red.radar

    well good riddance.


    Now get it out of windows 10. You make it so 1903 has the ability to wipe it completely from the machine; I will fast ring test it today.



  45. jumpingjackflash5

    Well, Microsoft left mobile, is leaving assistants … what's gonna be the next? Windows? Will they just offer Office, just like you can use it today on MacOS, IOS and Android? Oh ….

    • Winner

      In reply to jumpingjackflash5:

      Microsoft wanted to hit a home run in phones... they bunted...poor execution.

      They wanted a home run in Assistants...they bunted...poor execution.

      They HAVE a home run in OS (Windows)... but Win 10 is a very messy play. They could have had us LOVE that OS but it is a really mixed bag:

      • Coerced update to Win 10 from 8/7, bad karma right from the start
      • Forced updates
      • Telemetry you can't turn off
      • Ads
      • Botched updates with serious bugs
      • Reboots when you don't want them
      • UI inconsistencies, lipstick on a pig
      • A few nice new features but not a compelling list, for many people


      Their execution is not the best on anything except in corporate, it seems.

  46. Ulfvar

    Funny how nadella preached to microsoft that they would be part of the next wave of computing only to sit on his ass and miss that wave.


    I think nadella is the best thing to happen to microsoft since ballmer, but does he seriously expect people to use other assistants to get to cortana? What does she have to offer that I can't do on the others? She will just become a forgotten and useless skill.

    • BrianEricFord

      In reply to Ulfvar:


      Isn’t that like saying Wednesday is the best thing to happen to me since Tuesday?

      • Ulfvar

        In reply to BrianEricFord:

        lol when you put it like that I guess it sounds a bit strange


        What I meant was that he is the best thing to happen to this company (in my opinion) since Ballmer took over, better than any other person joining or leaving during that period, and better for the company than any product or whatever they might have released.

    • Winner

      In reply to Ulfvar:

      If there's nothing special or unique about Cortana's capabilities then nobody will use it. It's up to Microsoft to find somethign compelling for Cortana to do, and so far they have not.


      I use both Alexa and Google assistants at home for a lot of things. My wife and I turn our lights on and off in various rooms just by hollering out a command. It's very convenient.

    • Stooks

      In reply to Ulfvar:

      Honestly these so called "Assistants" are all junk. I hardly ever see anyone really use them. They are gimmick that some play with then abandon after they realize they can out perform these things doing stuff manually.

      • yaddamaster

        In reply to Stooks: This is just bizarre that you are being downvoted. I completely agree. I have friends who have these "smart" speakers. Other than asking for a weather report or some rare calendar checkadd they are not used for anything but playing music. That's all I used my Invoke for - Spotify and if that fails to be supported I'll just switch to Bluetooth.

        Cortana failed because MS failed in mobile. No one needs or wants Cortana on a PC. I tried.....there's just no point, On mobile? Sure. But Balmer completely screwed that up.

        I still believe there is room at the table for a third party player in mobile and mobile assistants. But Microsoft just doesn't get the consumer space.


        • Stooks

          In reply to yaddamaster:

          I do not get the down votes either. We have a full size Echo and a HomePod. Yes my kids messed with them a lot for about two weeks.


          Now NO ONE uses either of them other than to play music on. The Echo is nothing a but a blue tooth speaker for the iPhone's we use. Since we have Apple Music Siri gets used a little bit more on the Homepod and only to ask it to play music. It is in our basement so guests can ask it to play music.


          Here is a perfect example of not using these so called digital assistants. It is winter, and today is super cold out. Twice today one of us in the family, asked what the temperature is outside. The answer both times came from looking at the weather app on our phones.....vs asking one of these "assistants" to tell us the weather. Why? It is faster to pull up the weather via the app.


          The world of IOT right now is a complete train wreck with no standards and huge security problems. Paul plays with all of this stuff but he has to for his job.


          My family would be irked as heck if I tried setting up all of this stuff. We have a app for our garage door....no one uses it. They will use the keypad on the outside before they use the app. The only IOT device we use on a regular basis is the Nest App.

        • moruobai

          In reply to yaddamaster:


          You are on point! "Cortana failed because MS failed in mobile." This is a another knock-on effect of the Windows Phone decision.

          • hrlngrv

            In reply to moruobai:

            Stipulated that Cortana couldn't have succeeded without Windows phones on which it would have been used, but how could MSFT have made Windows phones a success, or at least reached 5% worldwide usage? Every possibility MSFT could have pursued would have cost MSFT a lot of money, and Windows phone was already unprofitable.

            Indeed, what if the sweetheart deal MSFT gave Nokia was the central reason Windows phones failed. That is, favoring one OEM guaranteed Windows would be shunned by other major phone makers, thus guaranteeing MSFT would never establish an OS licensing fee revenue stream like it had with PCs. MSFT effectively put all but a very, very few of its eggs in the Nokia basket, and Ballmer bought that basket when most of what remained in it had already gone bad.

            Somewhat sarcastic, the only way MSFT could have reached sugnificant usage share would have been to GIVE AWAY a Lumia 5xx with EVERY Office license sold.

      • Daekar

        In reply to Stooks:

        This. I don't understand why some people don't see this obvious truth. They just aren't good enough yet to be worth any of the trouble that's required to get them to do anything useful. I mean, look at how many times ALL of the assistants have utterly failed to perform just during the recording of FRD and WW, let alone how often they fail to work for folks not on camera. I understand the compulsion some people have to immediately embrace what they perceive as the next big thing in technology, but the willful blinders you have to put on to embrace this particular trend right now are amazingly large.


        Cortana adds delivery dates to my calendar and I use her to help with navigation sometimes. I occasionally pull up Google Assistant to see if it's gotten better, and it never has in any meaningful way unless what you want is to be fed a stream of content that Google's AI thinks you should see from its content partners. That's not an assistant.

  47. cheetahdriver

    At the risk of being one of those guys, I think this market is going to have to show me something before I delve any further into it. I have had a HC Cortana since it came out, and it never really did much more than play music and check the outside weather. Now it doesn't do anything despite numerous resets. I don't need Google or Alexa listening to my phone conversations, and Apple's product doesn't seem to be going anywhere.


    So I may sit this round out.

    • epsjrno

      In reply to cheetahdriver:
      If you're "one of those guys" so am I. I enjoyed Cortana with my Windows phones but have not seen anything that would cause me to invest into a household system and infrastructure.


    • j_c

      In reply to cheetahdriver:

      This is all lost on me too. I don't see enough utility to warrant the potential loss of privacy. The only current utility is the smart home but again I don't see enough to invest in upgrading my house or office with dozens of additional devices I talk to that replace flicking a switch or turning a dial slightly.

      • jgraebner

        In reply to j_c:

        I think the utility of the smart speakers and digital assistants is something that kind of needs to be experienced to really understand it. I basically felt the same way that you did until we received a Google Home as a gift. We found that we were using it all the time and now have them all over the house and have also installed a number of Hue lights as well as a Nest thermostat (we actually had that before the Google Home) and security system.


        At first, it is easy to think that these voice commands are replacing really simple tasks, but it doesn't take long to realize how incredibly convenient it is to be able to turn lights on or off, adjust the thermostat from anywhere in the house, ask it to turn on the security system as we walk out the door. As a parent, essentially having a whole-household public address system comes in rather handy as well. We also regularly use it to look something up, finding that it is much less disruptive to a conversation than pulling out a phone or opening up a laptop. Another particularly useful feature is asking for driving time to a destination while scrambling to get ready to go somewhere.


        Sure, these are unquestionably luxuries and everyone has to measure the expense and privacy concerns against the convenience, but so far my whole family is pretty well sold on it.



  48. jcalamita

    Now the thing to do is offer a firmware upgrade to owners of Cortana smart products that switch them over to Alexa.

  49. navarac

    Another "we've given up" on Microsoft's behalf unfortunately. Probably another result of the Store "failure" coupled with the mobile (phone) failure.

    For one, as there seems to be no staying power by Microsoft, it makes me think extremely skeptically about any present or future Microsoft offerings in the consumer space.

    • the_real_entheos

      In reply to navarac:
      Maybe they should just preemptively just give up on Windows and open up Win32(64) to MacOS or ChromeOS if they'll have it. I remember when John C. Dvorak thought that Apple would adopt Windows instead of MacOS because of Apple's focus on iOS. Don't think Apple truly cares about it's MacOS stuff other than a high profit / low volume seller of painfully slow to update (the hardware) computers.

      MS will be happy with Office 365 for a while until it feels some heat from GoogleDocs.


    • Darekmeridian

      In reply to navarac:

      I was thinking the same thing, while Apple is touting "Courage" Microsoft is touting "Cowardice" it may very well be too late for Cortana but I do think this device category is still in early days not so much "connected speakers" but the whole idea of ambient computing isn't likely something that will go away.


      Amazon had this market supposedly locked-up about 3 years ago. Google saw that there was something interesting here put their heads down and came back pretty strong and most likely will be the winner for the foreseeable future.


      And I am not buying this whole idea of them being the platform for digital assistants, they may have suckered a few companies into believing that they are on the ground floor of this thing but when Google, Amazon, and even Siri are everywhere who's going to care about their platform for digital assistants then?


      Paul says they indicated they don't want to be a player in this space, well if this going to be their approach to anything hard they aren't going to be a player in any space.


      • Ron McMahon

        In reply to javajunkee:
        Here's what sitting in my trusted-bought-used-loved-and now abandoned by Microsoft box;
        • Zune
        • Office Keyboard
        • Windows Phone
        • Spot Watch


        I've so far resisted buying a Microsoft (HP) Virtual Reality headset because of the above items in my dead technology closet.


        • navarac

          In reply to Ron McMahon:

          ....Windows Phone Productivity Dock...

        • Darekmeridian

          In reply to Ron McMahon:


          One more to add to the list:


          Microsoft KIN


          Although this wasn't entirely the fault of Microsoft, they were truly given the finger by Verizon. My problem was that Microsoft gave no recourse for a phone I had for about 3 months and the back end services went offline 3 months after that. But Verizon did step up and replaced every KIN phone with any model they were selling on their site at the time, even high end flagship phones. The Motorola Droid X was the top of the line at the time.



  50. Daekar

    I use Cortana as my voice assistant, and I'm OK with this. As long as there is a way I can use the visibility I've granted Microsoft into my files and services, I don't care if it's on the back end of a voice assistant or not. All of the assistants are mostly useless in real life regardless of what the technology press writes. If this lets Microsoft worry about making my experience better by letting somebody else worry about making the front-end pretty, I'm all for it.

    • maethorechannen

      In reply to Daekar:

      My Alexa is mostly used as a light switch, egg timer, podcast/radio player and occasional calculator. So that's why I wouldn't say it's mostly useless. But it also doesn't live up to the hype either.


      I've got the assistant on my phone and that's not much use either. It's not going to tell me what my day is like because it's not hooked up to my work calendar (and is never going to be). I don't fly anywhere so the flight tracking (which for some reason seems to be one of the most hyped features of assistants) is useless. It's never once tracked a package. The only thing it's good for is giving me sports scores (which Cortana was useless at - the only American sport it would give me scores for was the NFL, at least the assistant will give me MLB, NBA and the NHL even though I'm in the UK).

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Daekar:

      "All of the assistants are mostly useless in real life regardless of what the technology press writes."


      So that is absolutely not true, sorry. This isn't about "what the press writes," it's about reality.

      • Daekar

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I should have said, "Do not provide a meaningful increase in functionality or usability relative to the traditional alternative, and often require the user sacrifice the ability to be specific or to be presented with any options."


        Sure, you can use the assistants for trivial things that you could just as easily do other ways, but that doesn't mean they're actually useful yet. They will be useful someday, I'm sure, but that day is not today.

  51. waethorn

    So Microsoft continues to sell out their platform to advertisers and Big Data. Good job. I'm glad I don't use it anymore.

  52. misterstuart

    I wonder how many more months/years my HK speaker will keep working...

    • gregsedwards

      In reply to misterstuart:

      Considering MSN Dial-up Internet service is still a thing, I'd say you're pretty safe for a while, champ.

    • genecrispr

      I feel in a situation like this Microsoft should make a buy back offer for my TWO HK speakers. Look, I know i'm being a little self-serving when I say this.


      However, I feel, that there is an ... implied 3 year service life for various products ... go ahead and tell me if I'm out of order ... Perhaps, we need a labeling law for all these smart products. e.g. A HK Speaker that says right on the box, Microsoft promises to keep improving this product (e.g. we are going to add multiple timers) until December 1, 2018. Microsoft promises to keep this product working at its current level until December 1, 2019.


      See, I honestly thought, as the HK devices hit $50 on clearance, that since Cortana was still a CORE Windows 10 feature she would keep growing in functionality. That a HK speaker bought in december would eventually get multi-timers, and umm new stuff.


      But, now, just 30-60 days later I find that is not the case. I hate that my only "RECOURSE" is to not buy microsoft products anymore.


      Was I wrong to assume my HK product has a continued life because Cortana WAS a part of Windows 10? Tell me?

  53. BudTugglie

    Good move. Perhaps MS will learn that getting into a technology after the leaders already have an insurmountable lead is not a good idea. Innovate instead of chasing. I can't remember the last time that MS came out with a capability or feature that someone else hadn't already introduced and captured the market. They used to lead in new ideas, but that was a long time ago. I wish they'd recapture that ability.

  54. Maktaba

    When you admit that Cortana can’t compete with other assistants, what then is the point of offering it on other devices that already have Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri on them?

  55. yoshi

    Fast forward to 3 years from now and people will still be saying how their Invoke works great, while still holding out hope for a new model.

  56. Stooks

    "Thurrott.com was not invited"


    Maybe that is because of all your OH so postie coverage of Microsoft? Or maybe your love of all things Google?

    • provision l-3

      In reply to Stooks:

      Or there is probably a more practical reason like when a company puts together any event they have limited seating so they have make sure that the press invites have the appropriate level of influence in the audience they reach.

    • pecosbob04

      In reply to Stooks: I suppose that could be but it still seems a bit odd that msft would freeze Paul out after all these years because at the heart of it all Paul remains a msft stalwart through and through. (stalwart = not easy to come up with the right word while trying to avoid words like sycophant or fanboy which in this case would be needlessly churlish) Perhaps Paul would comment on this non-invitation.
      Oh I forgot to ask: postie?


      • Stooks

        In reply to pecosbob04:

        Besides the Xbox what Microsoft product does Paul actually like?


        He bashes Windows 10 constantly. Hates Edge...check. Makes fun of the store...check. Admittedly he does not use MS Office anymore because "Word is to feature rich" for his simple writing needs. Ever hear him talk about Outlook....he just love it :)


        He is consumer with consumer wants and needs and Microsoft is 98% a business product provider. Google is more his speed.

        • Greg Green

          In reply to Stooks:

          Paul has standards and a history with MS. He knows they can and should do better.

        • Winner

          In reply to Stooks:

          Paul is realistic. He's a Microsoft fan but he's not going to unrealistically fanboy about things. He's looking out for us. If you can't be objective then that's your problem, not his.

          If I were Paul I would have done exactly what he has. Diversify my tech coverage a bit. Relying on Microsoft for your exclusive livelihood could be dangerous. Note that this site is NOT called the SuperSite for Windows, in case you didn't realize that. This website subheading is the Home for Tech Enthusiasts. Not just Microsoft Enthusiasts.

          • Stooks

            In reply to Winner:

            Yes Paul as a CONSUMER focused "tech lite" tech blogger needed to diversify.


            I could complain about something from all tech providers. I have used/use all of them.


            Microsoft makes some fantastic products that billions of people use everyday. My company moved to Office 365 and Windows 10 two years ago and for the most part users love it. We are completely off of Windows 7. Teams is taking off super fast at my company right now. My wife's business has been on Office 365 for 3 years and it works great for her and her employees. My kids all use Windows 10 for gaming and on their school provided Windows 10 laptops they use Office 365 every day.


            I personally do NOT care for any of these brain dead, easy to trip up, privacy invasion "digital assistants". They all are slow and need mountains of data our data to even begin to be good. I am usually much faster at doing something manually than these things can do. Cortona is a waste of time for Microsoft. If there is ever any kind of laws created around privacy in the US these digital assistants will suffer badly from the lack of data that they freely get every day.

          • Truffles

            In reply to Winner:

            Paul made the right decision to diversify. But the problem is that he doesn't have the necessary depth of knowledge in other platforms to be able to provide nuanced analysis.


            At the very least this site needs an Apple specialist who actually understands that world - even a freelance writer with a weekly column would be better than nothing.

            • cadrethree

              In reply to Truffles:


              I would welcome Paul doing more weekly podcasts on Google, Amazon, Xbox and Apple. Watching podcasts from other sites are a terrible experience. Would I pay for that? Yeah cause there isn't anyone else in Paul's league. Paul has a undeniable style and is easy to watch. He has interesting takes on subjects. Leo and Paul are the two best tech guys to watch in this industry. He's my voice of reason, and clarity on all technology. Man I miss zdtv and tech TV from the 90's.

  57. sandeepm

    Buddy, you are so lost. I know that these things get confusing... the number 365 is so confusing.... and to add to that, there is 360 also... But Microsoft 365 and Office 365 are completely different DNA. Do yourself a favor and buy the $10 transcript. Another Fake News article! Cortana, buck up!

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