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How Microsoft's Cortana is getting her groove back

Cortana Play My Emails
Cortana Play My Emails (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

Microsoft's Cortana has been undergoing an identity crisis in the last few years. As Windows Phone wound down, Microsoft tried, in vain, to push Cortana as a consumer option with the Invoke speaker and GLAS thermostat. It all failed miserably.

But Microsoft's ambitions for smart AI and Cortana seems to now be finding its groove. The company recently unveiled Play My Emails for Outlook Mobile along with some significant enhancements to Outlook calendar.

Could this new Cortana finally be the path forward for Microsoft? We sat down with Andrew Shuman, Corporate Vice President of Cortana, to talk about why putting the AI in Outlook makes sense and how Cortana is finally going to work.

Cortana finds purpose in Outlook Mobile

Play my Emails Outlook and Cortana on iOS

Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

This week Microsoft announced the new Play My Emails feature for Outlook mobile which uses a new neural text to speech engine with more natural intonation and pauses. We first reported on this feature in late 2018.

Currently on iOS (beta) and coming to Android in early 2020, the idea sounds like simple speech-to-text, but it is much more advanced. For instance, Cortana won't read unnecessary parts of the email or things like shipping numbers. Instead, it smartly figures out the actual core message and narrates it back to you. This is machine learning in action.

If the email is threaded with multiple responses, Cortana will tell you that, pausing between emails, announcing who is responding, and walking you through the processes.

The idea for Play My Emails borrows heavily from podcasts, but also software for the visually impaired. The Outlook team spent a month wearing goggles that impair vision as well as studying screen readers to understand better how those systems work. It's a great example of how technology meant to help those at a disadvantage can trickle down for everyone.

Play My Email is like giving someone your phone and having them tell you what's important to start your day.

Imagine closing your eyes and giving your phone to someone and asking them to read your emails. Cortana prefaces each session with the number of emails, how long it will take, and information like "this is a long one." If there are photos in the email, Cortana will tell you that, too, suggesting you will need to open the app later to see them yourself (one could imagine someday AI will even be able to describe the photo as well).

For Microsoft 365 customers, a new calendar feature lets you add Cortana to your email. If you need to schedule an appointment with someone via email, you can add Cortana as one of the recipients. Cortana then uses the company's directory and internal calendar to suggest times that work for both of you. If the other person is not part of your org, they can email back using natural language the time and date, and Cortana will handle the rest of the scheduling.

Andrew Shuman

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

This ability is a significant feat for AI. It isn't an agent responding to you with an answer; it's going out and doing something on your behalf. Shuman notes this scheduling ability is "less of an interactive function and more of a delegate one." It's also the sort of task a real assistant would do at the office.

Another innovative feature is one that is also pro-active. Cortana serves up a daily briefing within Outlook that suggests emails you need to respond to, tasks you need to finish, appointments coming up, and more. Because Microsoft has been adding "app-like" features to Outlook, users can hit actionable buttons within the email to complete those tasks.

This ability is a significant feat for AI. It isn't an agent responding to you with an answer; it's going out and doing something on your behalf.

Cortana can even suggest a few moments throughout your day for focus time based on your schedule. If a suggested time works, hit a button within the daily brief, and your calendar is blocked off so you can get work done. Shuman refers to this as "Cortana as a coach."

All these features have one thing in common: productivity. It may seem trivial, but these are the kind of lofty goals for artificial intelligence. Assisting people with emails, schedules, making appointments, finding downtime, suggesting responses, and more is what real technology should be doing — merely telling you the depth of the Grand Canyon is easy by comparison.

None of this ignores Microsoft's other ongoing issues with Cortana, like regional availability and support for other languages. Indeed, many of these new Cortana features are US-only, a familiar theme. Shuman notes the team still wants to have Cortana in other regions, but for now, not much has changed, and that calls into question how well this new strategy will work.

Putting Cortana where it makes sense

Cortana and Alexa

Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

The most significant change for Microsoft's thinking on Cortana comes down to where the assistant lives. The idea of a centralized "hub" explicitly made for Cortana on iOS and Android is making less sense these days (the depreciation of features and functions bolster this argument). The Microsoft Surface Headphones and Surface Earbuds are also getting dedicated apps for iOS and Android nullifying the need for users to install Cortana. It seems highly likely those dedicated mobile apps will go away sometime in 2020.

Reports that Microsoft Launcher too may be ditching Cortana also seems probable. Even Xbox may lose its Cortana skill.

All of that seems to suggest Cortana is, wait for it, dead. But Andrew Shuman sees it differently. It is about focusing on specific problems and going to where it already has an audience. Regarding this week's announcements and the future of mobile, Shuman notes:

You'll see us do a lot of work inside the "hero" mobile apps (like Outlook, Microsoft Teams, To Do), more in those experiences. We have 100 million active users in Outlook Mobile. Users are using Outlook as a hub every day. Going in multiple times a day, always checking what's coming next. It is a much more natural invocation of an assistant, especially since an assistant is about managing time, people, and tasks.

The argument is a strong one. Cortana cannot compete against an e-commerce company like Amazon or Google's Android, where its assistant handles phone and mapping functions. But Microsoft can play to its strengths. Outlook Mobile has millions of users on Android and iOS — why not put an assistant there? Why not use the power of AI to help manage, triage, and even act on all that data?

It's not a rhetorical question either. Up until now, digital assistants have been a lot of novelty (jokes, riddles, trivia) with limited functionality (play music, set a reminder). What Alexa, Google, and Siri have not done is become actual assistants — ones that proactively solve problems. That's the real goal of AI, after all, to make your life easier, to help you manage things, not offer novel distractions or entertainment.

Another place where Cortana still makes sense for Microsoft is being front-and-center for Windows 10 (no, it is not going anywhere). New features, including previously announced conversational style and semantic awareness, are nearing completion. Weaving a digital assistant and AI throughout Windows and its services is still a priority for Shuman and his team, and we can expect more on that front in 2020.

Also, don't expect a rebranded "Microsoft Assistant" in place of Cortana. When pressed on the subject of Cortana as an agent Shuman says that Cortana — the name and likeness — is sticking around. When the assistant reads back your email in Outlook Cortana's blue ring is front and center, same when CC'ing Cortana on an email. Shuman notes that they will use Cortana, where cross-device experiences make sense. Other times like in PowerPoint, where AI assists in slide preparation, it is the same tech powering Cortana, but with no visible representation.

Cortana with focus, not tricks

Cortana app for iOS

Source: Windows CentralThe dedicated app for Cortana is likely going away in 2020. (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

It's hard not to conclude that Microsoft is pushing Cortana towards a more niche, but highly functional area within its core products. The targets are enterprise-first right now with less focus on the consumer space, but Shuman notes that these features lend themselves to that area too.

Cortana under Shuman's leadership seems to have finally found purpose.

Partnerships with Amazon's Alexa can pick up Cortana's slack for smart-home functions. Shuman's belief in a multi-client world seems more to be out of necessity, but that doesn't make it the wrong choice. The Voice Interoperability Initiative with partners like Salesforce, Sonos, Sony Audio Group, Spotify, Verizon, Orange, and Qualcomm suggest this could be a more successful approach to AI and digital assistants than a monolithic model. Shuman remarks that in the real world, you have experts and professionals for health, fitness, work, entertainment, and more. Digital assistants should look like that too.

Microsoft's mantra since CEO Satya Nadella's takeover in 2015 is about getting back to what Microsoft is good at, namely software and services. With Cortana playing to Microsoft's strength in Outlook, Teams, Office, Bing Search, and more, it is one space that the company can have a significant impact.

All of this may disappoint those who want a "one AI to rule them all" world with Microsoft at the helm, but such a scenario is seemingly more unlikely by the day. Cortana may ditch some of these haphazard experiments like Xbox, home speakers, and phones, but this new direction seems more realistic.

If Cortana was a kid in 2014, it is now headed off to the real world in 2019 armed with some real AI under its belt. It's time for the assistant to do more than answer trivia or play your favorite diddy. It's time to get to work.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • Since Microsoft is abandoning most of Cortanta's personal assistance features, I hope they will allow system level access to "Alexa" or "OK Google".
  • That is definitely the goal for the Voice Interoperability Initiative. Microsoft sees Alexa has taking care of all that home/IoT stuff and if that integration can be seamless, could work. For Google, well, they have to join the Voice Interoperability Initiative. So far, no signs they will or are interested in working with other companies, unfortunately.
  • Brilliant read, thank you. This makes total sense to me. So far, voice AI has been pretty useless, and non-voice AI has been abysmal (e.g., Google gives me driving instructions even though it knows I'm on the train every day and I tell Maps explicitly that I use mass transit; no music app seems to understand my preferences; even Amazon floats products to me that are completely irrelevant, like camping gear - these are not trivial problems to solve!). This is real progress, something actually useful. Everything else looks like child's play. Double points for interviewing a fellow Andrew.
  • For someone who is in and out of Outlook dozens of times a day, I still want it on my phone more than ever. When I'm on my phone I'm out and about and it makes more sense to speak out loud to my phone on the go. Just give me the ability to say Hey Cortana without logging into my phone and I will be so happy. I can't see myself using verbal commands on my desktop while in Outlook in the office all that much if ever. But I do need assistance with remind me of this, text so and so, set an alarm, what does this word mean, where is this city located, what is 3123 divided by 4... and so on, is very helpful throughout the day.
  • That's an interesting point about "Hey Cortana" for Outlook. I agree, it could actually be useful there.
  • To be honest I still don't understand why they want to proceed that way. I want one AI . I don't want to have different AI at work and different at home. It is really frustrating when you want cortana but noone cares on it. The only AI that will dominate is Google assistant and already does. I never understood why Microsoft couldn't. For sure I understand that Microsoft is focusing on Business now on but come on.... It is Microsoft. It should have a better AI and compete Google and Amazon...and don't tell me that they don't have the money to do it.. In general Microsoft has involved very much and it is at great point now but is leaving the consumer.. I hope they don't regret it one day...
  • The issue here though for Google is they will likely never have a significant presence in the work space. What makes Cortana in Outlook interesting, something I omitted, is it is standards compliant meaning your info is secured. Google has no role in Outlook, calendar, Office 365, Teams, Skype, etc. which a LOT of companies rely on. So, while you may want Google to dominate there is no escaping they will hit walls too. They also can't compete against Amazon for eCommerce. And if you're on an iPhone, well, Google as an Assistant is meaningless. Same when you are at your PC.
  • There's also the benefit of Cortana being platform agnostic going the route of having it built into applications. My company has been migrating users over the past year to Azure AD and now everyone has switched to using Outlook mobile on their smartphone. Microsoft is in a unique position being an enterprise and productivity company, being able to weave Cortana into applications that hundreds of millions of people actually use is a benefit they have over Amazon and Google. Of course many people on this site won't like this business play and would rather have another me too consumer assistant. Personally, I don't use any of these personal assistants. I just haven't been able to find a way to use them naturally in my workflow.
  • Good points and appreciate the real-world example.
  • Fitting then into your workflow is going to be really hard. It is straight forward having them give you directions, turn off lights, sets timers, adjust the thermostat, etc. Maybe there is an opportunity for use of a digital assistant at work, but it is a much harder question. It will probably be years before Microsoft figures out exactly what that looks like and how to implement it effectively. At what point does Cortana just replace you or I?
  • The frustrating thing is that Cortana could have been the dominant AI that Alexa is today in addition to having this new focus if Microsoft had committed to it. Cortana came out on Windows Phone 7 months before Amazon announced Alexa. It was immediately obvious how convenient a smart speaker would have been. But instead they allowed Amazon to get there first and only released the Invoke 3 years later. C'mon Microsoft, you have to commit to something and resource it properly if it's going to succeed!
  • "The frustrating thing is that Cortana could have been the dominant AI that Alexa is today in addition to having this new focus if Microsoft had committed to it."
    No one disputes that, but like harping on Windows Phone, we're talking about what could have been years ago. Microsoft definitely missed the home speaker rage and they admit that, but that's not news now. The only question I'm interested in is what comes next, where do they go from here? I'm not really interested in looking back.
  • I'm with you, but why bother further retreating? Why not leave the apps and existing integrations in place and add to them with these new features? You don't have to close one window in order to open another one.
  • "I'm with you, but why bother further retreating? "
    Time, resources, and projected adoption impact all of that. I'm quite confident that the actual use case of a Cortana app on iOS/Android is very low and getting worse. You can tie that to the declining functionality/removal of features, but there doesn't seem to be a way to alter that course even if they went full speed. I think this is just being more focused as a company/platform rather than chasing dreams with no chance of tangible success. Alternative way to think about it: If you're a PM on Cortana and quarter after quarter you show declining usage for your app/experience, and no tangible plan to change that, it's hard to justify to your bosses to keep funding it.
  • Noone on my house uses alexa. even when they have the speaker sin the house. On the other hand, I have always felt Cortana had superior technological chops. I clearly remember the day when someone turned on a switch when I was asking Cortana to send a text. The day before, I had to use simple sentences of no more than 4 words. Then the next day, Cortana heard me much better. What is frustrating is the inability of Microsoft to look past the enterprise environment. I run a small business. I use outlook. I pay the MSFT $450 a year to keep office 365. But I am also in my car, at the job site, in the office, talking to customers, getting supplies. Getting in a truck, carrying a bag of tools around the job site, sitting in the office, means that the "phone" is my constant companion. People know to call or text me in specific situations. Cortana can handle the info flow but MSFT keeps screwing up the interface. Two weeks ago I could say Cortana call Suzie mobile. The phone rings. Now I have to be in the Cortana app to say hey Cortana call Suzie mobile. MSFT stop jerking me around.
  • "The frustrating thing is that Cortana could have been the dominant AI that Alexa is today in addition to having this new focus if Microsoft had committed to it." I doubt that. I think Alexa is dominant because it can sell you everything on Amazon. It made sense for Amazon to plow lots of money into smart speakers because it got Amazon customers to buy more, driving prices down a quality up. Maybe Google and Apple (and MS!) lag because of that.
  • Sad to hear about xbox. I could imagine some scenario where I ask Cortana to find some of my friends for a multiplayer session in a game and schedule it for us, then when the time comes launch the game, create the lobby, ssnd the invites etc. Granted that's not how the kids do it but for busy adults I would find that useful.
  • I think AI/ML can/will definitely play a part in gaming and Xbox at some point, but right now, it's more of a forced ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ for functionality. We're likely more to see the hidden aspects of ML/AI for match making, handling functions instead of a branded Cortana experience. But we'll see, we're still early days for this stuff.
  • I use "Hey Cortana" on Xbox One a lot to say "record that" during game play or "take a screen shot". If that goes away... It will be terrible honestly. Makes it easy to record or screen shot without stopping game play or recording the full game.
    This seems like such a dumb decision by MS.
  • I'm on the Insider program, and Cortana is already gone. If you say "Hey Cortana", you get a response that Cortana is no longer supported. The old Xbox commands still work, but they are much more limited - for example, volume up and down is a fixed amount only, "Sign in" only works with your real name and not your gamertag, and the real coup de grace, "Xbox Off" is immediate with no asking for confirmation. It is terrible. Why they had to get rid of something that works, I don't know.
  • As with anything in business, things can always take a turn for the better or worse. I see Cortana beinguch more useful in the office space and I certainly would love to see more Cortana integration within Office and Outlook. As many emails as I get on my work phone, having Cortana to read them out loud would be very useful.
  • All this sounds great, but why can't Cortana also remain as it is?
    Why not BOTH worlds?
    Maybe it can't compete with Amazon & Google as it is.
    Microsoft just doesn't get it that its loyal customers want something Microsoft'ish on their phones.
  • Obviously there are not enough users to keep it as is.
  • The new buzz word the few past years have been and still is AI. Just one problem with it, the computer have none, it have limited responses to a limited number of cases.
    If you want AI, look in your kids eyes, honestly, we are nothing more than a collecting of atoms that should never interact on a normal basis. When we understand that, when we understand how, then maybe we can make our own AI, right now it is just a simple command interaction , SCI would fit better really. We have most of the tools to do it, but should we?
    We are as I said already doing it, most without knowing it, some without ever understanding it.
    Anyway have a good weekend 😁
  • Maybe I missed it in the article, but I guess I am wondering if the retreat from the consumer focus to focus more on enterprise functionality means that the capabilities currently in Cortana that I use with my HK Invoke and on my phone will be switched off. I honestly don't need a smart speaker to do anything more for consumer reasons than what Cortana currently does, so I am hoping that these changes do not mean that my Invoke will become a brick.
  • "means that the capabilities currently in Cortana that I use with my HK Invoke and on my phone will be switched off. "
    We asked asked about that and support for Invoke will continue. It won't stop working.
  • Awesome! Glad that the traditional Cortana functionality won't be going anywhere.
  • I'm hoping this works out for them. I personally cannot see me asking it to read me email. I don't commute because I work from home. If I drove to work, perhaps. I want more robust reminder capabilities. I want for example to be reminded to act on a text I received. Better geolocation reminders, etc.
  • "Play My Email is like giving someone your phone and having them tell you what's important to start your day." It sounds to me like I should be hiring THAT someone. If you can't read your emails and prioritize accordingly - or even worse, you need your phone to do that FOR you - then I don't want you working for me. Neither, I suspect, would most employers. While all of this AI stuff sounds super cool and almost impressive, the fact remains that YOU need some skills to be employable. If you rely on assistants - whether real or virtual - to do everything, then YOUR actual value to the company becomes questionable.
  • "It sounds to me like I should be hiring THAT someone. If you can't read your emails and prioritize accordingly - or even worse, you need your phone to do that FOR you - then I don't want you working for me."
    That's kind of nonsense. This is for the mobile worker in their car or on the train heading to work, running on a treadmill, or wearing those Surface Earbuds. It's a new way of working no different than people getting email on their watch (!) or even their phones.
    "If you rely on assistants - whether real or virtual - to do everything, then YOUR actual value to the company becomes questionable."
    Productivity by workers has done nothing but go up and up while wages mostly stay the same. The idea of giving workers even more tools - such as AI to help coordinate meetings - is a smart way of getting computers to assist us with the more mundane tasks. And yes, breaking news, we all rely on technology to do our jobs. Or do you really think it's valuable use of an employee's time responding to emails, setting up meetings going back and forth, or not being efficient in managing time? You sound like you're against any tech that makes people's lives easier, or be more efficient so they can actually focus on doing real work instead of being their own secretary. I find that weird.
  • Dude, you're questioning the usefulness of assistants, digital or not? Huh?
  • Classic Microsoft. Slow end to a product born as you most personal assistant. It never fully left the USA. Most countries never saw Cortana at all. Most European countries waited years for their languages to be supported. Many functions never came from the USA. The smart speakers never arrived, unless you lived in the USA. The Alexa skill never arrived, unless you live in the USA. Cortana made most sense on mobile so obviously Microsoft crammed it's worst selling phone market with Cortana features. Any market outside the USA that sold 10% of Windowsphone, and there were quite a few, never saw Cortana. A curious case of inverse marketing where the most promising places to promote a product were the only ones that never saw it. AI as part of Outlook. Great idea. Except that if I want to use AI I just want to say "Hey Cortana, read my mail"". Now I need to find the app, start the app and then use Cortana. Now she isn't my personal assistant but "clippy plus for Outlook". My personal assistant is now Siri or Google. However, none of this matters. Cortana is an enterprise product. It will be fine. It will just be that voice you use in an app rather than the vision it once had.
  • "The Voice Interoperability Initiative with partners like Salesforce, Sonos, Sony Audio Group, Spotify, Verizon, Orange, and Qualcomm suggest this could be a more successful approach to AI and digital assistants than a monolithic model. Shuman remarks that in the real world, you have experts and professionals for health, fitness, work, entertainment, and more. Digital assistants should look like that too." This is the key to understanding Microsoft's new direction with Cortana. There is no perfect assistant and each have their weaknesses, so why force ourselves to choose one? Can't wait to see how Microsoft integrates Cortana into their core products.
  • Daniel,
    Great article for clarity. I still don't get it.
    So they want to play to their strengths. Well isn't xbox and Windows PC's considered strengths. I don't want to go into an app to ask it to do something. That's going backwards imo. But xbox is front and center and now is a huge focus for Microsoft. This should be a no brainer. Hell the name Cortana comes from Xbox. I know I speak for the minority but Cortana on my xbox/Kinect was awesome. Sure it had some hicups(not being able to use certain smart home apps, philips hue and more). But turning on when u couldn't find your controller or changing channels was a huge plus. Using Kinect to automatically log you in by visual recognition (pc's and phones do this in their sleep) Cortana felt like the Skype app or apps😁. Where they made so many different ones and functioned slightly different but hey Microsoft still has Skype. Xbox carries a bunch of consumers so don't @me about numbers. Even if Cortana just stayed as it was until they figured out all this mess would be fine. Then I could understand, hey we have something new. out with the old. But still being in the R&D stage why not continue the support. I have two invokes and they are just as good. Thank God Cortana still lives on that. Now putting cortana on consumer devices such as headphones then consumers getting use to using Cortana will drive them to have to put Cortana back to consumer products (smart speaker and future IoT products) so to me they should still have Cortana hanging around these areas just to see that dynamic. Fingers crossed they figure this out. It's time to go all in. Stop being so scared.
  • "Well isn't xbox and Windows PC's considered strengths. I don't want to go into an app to ask it to do something. That's going backwards imo. But xbox is front and center and now is a huge focus for Microsoft."
    Actually, consoles are becoming less important as gaming services rise. But, more to the point, I'm certain Microsoft has telemetry on usage of voice assistants and, specifically, that Cortana speaker skill. If you think about it, how many people are using a Cortana voice skill vs an Alexa or Google one? Just by count of speaker endpoints Alexa and Google have to be miles ahead. And with only the Invoke out there (and it is basically not an option anymore) there is no real reason to keep Cortana around on Xbox as a skill. Were Microsoft to keep up on the Cortana-speaker play then it would make sense. But this is ultimately about the math and there are just not a lot of Cortana speaker endpoints in the real world to justify its existence, imo. I agree about the Kinect thing ending too early, etc. Microsoft did take Kinect tech though and move it to HoloLens and even that new Azure camera. They could, easily, someday bring back such tech for a new Xbox console, but I don't think they're convinced it's a viable path forward.
  • I never saw the movie, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, so I'm taking from context that it had something to do with her getting back to basics and then finding success. But, what it seems like here is that instead of Cortana being my personal assistant in my life, it will simply be my assistant for my calendar and email. It is fair, I suppose, to say that those two things are probably the best digital representation of what I'm doing, but they really seem geared to Contoso or Northwind type companies. It's time for Microsoft to really address the enterprise at home. How can it help Mothers and Fathers juggle their kids schedules and homework? Track bill payments and credit card spending against household budgets? We've talked so much about Microsoft helping you be productive in both your professional life and your personal life, but where is Teams for Life? If I had to pick a movie title to inspire Cortana, it would be Field of Dreams. "Build it and they will come." But, they really do need to treat it like Xbox and start creating in-house studios to develop this stuff. It's impossible for developers to keep up with these cycles of SDKs that launch with obscure documentation followed up by slow product launches and then retrenchment towards a new, groovier focus. @daniel_rubino, I know this is a cycle that you are as frustrated about as anybody. I really appreciate the coverage of Cortana. I have 3 HK Invokes in my house and I gave 2 away as Christmas presents. They are great devices that should not be abandoned, just like the Band. The voice hub shouldn't be abandoned just like wearables shouldn't be abandoned. I hope this new, more limited focus for Cortana works out, but I have to say it feels more like Cortana really has much more to offer and it seems like settling.
  • Hey Daniel any word if Jen Taylor still going to be the voice actor for Cortana or are they going to use an artificial voice for the AI now?
  • Great question! We actually asked about that. Jen Taylor is and will be the (female) voice of Cortana. While they are using technology to control intonation changes the actual voice recordings are still Jen and there are no plans (as far as we've been told) to change that.
  • Jen will eventually be replaced by a deep fake of herself. Remember Star Wars, Admiral Tarkin, anyone?
  • I mean, maybe. But right now, it's still Jen Taylor and they're using her voice recordings for Cortana. While technology is amplifying and modifying it, the base is still her.
  • Main reason MS lost in all these fields, commitment, functionality and availability.
  • It looks like you're writing a letter...
  • Daniel, I updated to 20H1 to try out the new Cortana app and noticed that the Cortana notebook is gone... and with it the ability to access the smart home skill to add/remove devices (lights, switches, etc.). Were you able to find out from Microsoft if this revamped and very enterprise focused Cortana of the near future will still support smart home capabilities at all? It seems very strange to me to be making what seems like a retreat from the smart home space when they have the Surface Headphones, upcoming Surface Buds, and Surface Duo in 2020. I wonder what the default assistant will be on that phone. I'm not sold on this notion of a multi-assistant world. At least... not unless switching assistants becomes a transparent thing. If Alexa can control my GLAS thermostat, but not Cortana... then Cortana needs the contextual awareness to know that if I say "Set the temperature to 72" that she needs to reach out to Alexa and make it happen. Having to say "Hey Cortana, talk to Alexa. Set the temperature to 72. Bye!" is janky and not a good user experience. Vice versa with having to ask Alexa to talk to Cortana to get my meetings for the day. And equally unpleasant if opening a dedicated app (like Outlook) is required.
  • A good read, Daniel. Thanks for writing it :)
  • One thing is remarquable is how much Amazon, Google, Facebook (and Apple with Siri) want its assistant have intelligence, and for that he will want to have access to your data
    Economists are passionnate about the value they can give to humans and phenomena