Cortana Beta arrives in Microsoft Store to enable more frequent updates

What you need to know

  • The new Cortana beta app (opens in new tab) has appeared on the Microsoft Store.
  • The move to the Microsoft Store should break Cortana's dependence on new Windows 10 updates, allowing it to update with new features more frequently.
  • The new beta experience was first spotted hidden in a recent 20H1 Insider build.

Microsoft is gearing up to break Cortana's shackles, allowing it to be updated more frequently without relying on new Windows 10 releases. A new Cortana Beta app (opens in new tab) (via Aggiornamenti Lumia) is now available on the Microsoft Store, and it looks set to deliver the updated experience that was recently discovered hidden in a Windows 10 20H1 Insider build.

The basic features of the app remain the same as we've become familiar with over the course of Cortana's life on Windows 10. From the Microsoft Store's description:

Save time and stay organized—Cortana helps handle day-to-day tasks so you can stay on top of what matters most.Cortana can support you by giving you reminders, keeping your to-do lists, and helping you set timers and alarms. Cortana can also give you quick answers to the questions you ask.As an intelligent assistant, Cortana will find all kinds of info, give you weather and traffic updates, and help you search the web. But Cortana will also get to know you better all the time. Cortana will help track and find the things you're passionate about, like your favorite artists or sports teams, to give you better recommendations and updates.

Microsoft has been gradually working on breaking Cortana out from the system for some time. Most recently, we saw the fruits of this effort in the Windows 10 May 2019 Upadte, which split the Cortana interface from the search bar. Going forward, Microsoft is working on doubling down on Cortana's features, starting with a new, more conversational experience. Being able to ship updates via the Microsoft Store, as opposed to waiting to roll out changes with each major Windows 10 update, will allow the team to more quickly iterate with new features.

Right now, opening the app simply greets you with a message that reads, "Hi, thanks for taking an interest!" Presumably, we'll see Microsoft expand on its testing plans for the Cortana Beta before too long, possibly in an upcoming Insider build.

See at Microsoft (opens in new tab)

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Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • You can't get regular consumers back to the app which they knew was horrible! Grow up Microsoft and learn how to market and release a polished product.
  • Right, because customers never reverse themselves, and companies never win back people. Android was always great as was the iPhone, Apple never almost went bankrupt, Siri is AWESOME and EVERYONE loves it (same for Bixby), Ford never sold terrible cars, Samsung phones never exploded, Boeing planes never crashed and murdered people, and Facebook never screwed with data and privacy... But please, tell me about "regular consumers" and how brilliant and forthright they are with their buying habits.
  • Customers will definitely reverse themselves, but where is the opportunity for Cortana? Merely being a desktop app isn't enough. Without speakers or phones, or any place digital assistants make sense, what does Microsoft hope to accomplish?
  • Cortana is everywhere except smart speakers.
  • *Cortana is everywhere (Google Play store, App Store and now Windows Store), just not installed 99% devices... unless they are Windows 10 devices.
  • It isn't native to anything but Windows, and Windows isn't prime real estate for digital assistants. You aren't going to bring people to the platform when it is far inferior to the competition and isn't really available.
  • The new Microsoft is more ambitious and is playing the long term game. Now it may feel like the mobile is everything and yes, Microsoft lost there. But the smartphone era is, kind of, over. Ultra mobile PCs are coming. The future is quite different for Microsoft and other big players. While Microsoft has to make the complex, powerful OS simpler for ultra mobile use cases ( which it is currently venturing out with making modular WCOS), Android have to beef up for PC level performance. Smartphones alone won't mean MOBILE in the near future and Microsoft has a lot of insights from the past failures. Talking about this move, hope this won't change the strategy of weaving Cortana deep into the OS and other Microsoft services.
  • There's also the slowly integration of AR via Hololens on enterprise. The industrial and medical sector for one is slowly integrating Hololens 2 into their workflow as the hands free + spacial recognition features make it very easy to be more productive in those sectors. And if the law of supply and demand takes place due to slowly by steady demand then manufacturing as a side effect gets cheaper to allow more improvements and a possible release to consumers. I feel AR + ultra portable PCs are gonna make waves in the next few years as the go to productivity combo.
  • Couldn't have said this better!
  • All I get is a page that says. "Hi, thanks for taking an interest!"
  • Final paragraph in our article:
    "Right now, opening the app simply greets you with a message that reads, "Hi, thanks for taking an interest!" Presumably, we'll see Microsoft expand on its testing plans for the Cortana Beta before too long, possibly in an upcoming Insider build."
  • That is what happens with summary bullet points. Many fail to actually read the article.
  • Ahhh, you are correct. I should have read it all. Great site! I've been reading for many years! Keep up the great work!
  • I hate to say this but maybe too little too late? Hopefully it will make her better but I don't expect many customers shifting over time. I still believe if she was kept as a part of search (Maybe make Cortana and search into the same app that expands as a search bar on taskbar and updates from windows store), people would've gotten more familiar with Cortana and actually used her more and even be inclined to download her on their phones. Edit: Also removing her from Microsoft Edge was a mistake as well. Microsoft Edge was the only browser as far as I know with a built in assistant that could've been more useful by expanding her capabilities such as, track coupons, track discounts/sales etc missed opportunity again for Cortana :(
  • Does this mean we can finally uninstall her completely?
  • I don't get it. Isn't Cortana 90% backend anyway. Little of what she does is done on device, so upgrading is a matter of changing the server.
  • I'm hoping I can finally uninstall Cortana
  • it would be nice to be able to without renaming folders to stop cortana from starting up.
  • And... she lives! Typing instead of talking to her is much smarter on a PC anyway. Maybe IT shops will enable the app now? I'd certainly make the argument to. Making Search and Cortana autonomous is yet another smart & practical Nadellaplay.
  • i am in build 18922 and installed the Cortana beta from the store. But still its the same old one!!
  • keep getting a 0x80073D05 error. wont even complete the install.
  • "... Microsoft is working on doubling down on Cortana's features, starting with a new, more conversational experience"
    Looking forward to this. The lack of even rudimentary conversational abilities is what turns me off from speaking to digital assistants in general. Sure full-blown conversation is still a ways off, but at least listen for follow-up input within the current context.