Microsoft is building Cortana into Outlook as an AI that helps you stay productive

Play my Emails Outlook and Cortana on iOS
Play my Emails Outlook and Cortana on iOS (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Cortana AI brings new features to Outlook.
  • Cortana adds the ability to read emails aloud and send you a daily briefing.
  • Cortana's natural conversation features to arrive in the coming months.

Update: The Play My Emails feature is now rolling out to those on the iOS TestFlight beta. It will be version 4.10.0.

Microsoft is expanding the role of Cortana to be more than just a typical virtual assistant that can tell you the weather or turn on your lights. Microsoft wants Cortana to be a true virtual assistant, a feature that's always working in the background to help you keep productive. Today, Microsoft announced that Cortana is coming to Outlook, and will be gaining new capabilities to help people stay in their flow while at work.

Starting with something simple, Cortana will now be able to read your emails aloud for you to listen to, just like a podcast. Microsoft says this is handy for those who drive to work in the mornings, or can't pull out their phone or laptop on a busy train. The feature is called Play My Emails, and will also read out any changes to your schedule that you may need to be aware of. Play My Emails will be launching on Outlook for iOS today, with Android following in 2020. It'll also be limited to customers in the United States at first, just like most things related to Cortana.

Play My Email

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Another way Microsoft is integrating Cortana in Outlook is by automatically managing your calendar and commitments. At the beginning of every day, Cortana will pop up inside Outlook with a "daily brief" that gives you a quick rundown of everything happening on that day. This includes any meetings or events scheduled in your calendar and any contextual insights in emails it thinks you might want to respond to or follow up with. Customers will also be able to mention or email Cortana directly to set up meetings with colleagues.

Cortana's new natural conversational features announced earlier this year are also still in the works and will be launching in the coming months. Work on integrating Cortana into Microsoft Teams is also still ongoing, and Microsoft expects more features and enhancements to light up there in the coming months. Finally, Microsoft mentions that Cortana is getting a significant overhaul on Windows 10 with the 20H1 update launching early next tear.

2019 has been a year of recommitment to Cortana from Microsoft. It's slowly but surely transitioning the assistant away from your traditional basic voice command initiator, and is turning Cortana into a genuinely digital assistant with smart AI capabilities that help you get more done in your daily life. What are your thoughts on these new Cortana improvements? Let us know in the comments.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads