Microsoft needs to prove it's serious about Cortana — before it's too late

Invoke Speaker
Invoke Speaker (Image credit: Windows Central)

Once upon a time, Cortana was going to revolutionize productivity and organization for every user of the Microsoft ecosystem. On PCs and Windows phones, "she" would help you set up reminders, keep track of your appointments, and dynamically let you know if you need a raincoat for that morning commute. On Xbox, Cortana would be your gateway to voice-activated media controls and keep track of your friends' activities on Xbox Live. On IoT, Cortana was supposed to arrive on a new generation of connected devices. So uh, how did this all go down? Not as planned.

Microsoft says it's still committed to Cortana, attempting to end speculative commentary that portents the voice assistant's doom. But actions speak louder than words, and at least on the face of it, Microsoft has been doing a whole load of nothing to showcase and develop Cortana as a platform.

Hey Cortana, install Alexa

While most of the features described above arrived, they either did so slowly, in a near-useless state, or, in some cases, not at all. That's particularly so if you were in the wrong market. Cortana is in a weird, scary place right now, and it doesn't feel like Microsoft is giving the web-based Bing assistant anywhere near the level of resources she needs.

Amazon's Alexa, with an army of cheap and powerful connected speakers, has thoroughly come to dominate the whole idea of what a voice-activated assistant should be. But even Alexa has her disadvantages, in that she's more or less limited to that speaker in the corner of your house.

Cortana should have been well placed to take a dominating role in this new category.

Luckily for Cortana, Alexa's apps on Android and iOS aren't that great, yet. So, on a wide array of Microsoft-backed devices and hundreds of millions of PCs, Cortana should have been well placed to really take a dominating role in this exciting and new category. But it hasn't panned out that way.

Amazon's Alexa is now encroaching on Windows PCs. Announced at CES, Amazon Alexa will now come bundled with various PCs from high-profile vendors, such as ASUS and HP, which can only be seen as a snub of Microsoft's own voice-assistive efforts. Microsoft also previously announced that Alexa skills would be baked directly into Cortana, a partnership spawned from a position of weakness, rather than strength. If Cortana was powerful enough, intuitive enough, and had the same level of developer support as Alexa, this "partnership" probably wouldn't be happening.

The whole idea of saying "Hey Cortana, open Alexa," before accessing Amazon's own services is ridiculous, particularly when Alexa will be getting direct-access apps on Windows PCs. Anything Cortana does, Alexa can do better, and when she arrives on Microsoft's own platform, you have to presume that Cortana's days are well and truly numbered.

Cortana isn't a global product

Many of the complaints I have about Cortana extend directly to her insular nature. If you're based in the U.S., your experience with Cortana will wildly differ from my own, being in the UK, where half of Cortana's services and capabilities aren't available. Of course, I'm lucky to even have Cortana, considering she isn't available in the vast majority of territories and markets around the world. For a company as huge as Microsoft, this is just insane.

The trickle of IoT devices that support Cortana, such as the gorgeous GLAS thermostat, and Harman Kardon's surprisingly capable Invoke speaker are far from the army of devices Microsoft promised years ago for Cortana's IoT future. And these devices are available only in the U.S., as usual.

The GLAS thermostat is a stunning example of what is possible with Cortana.

The GLAS thermostat is a stunning example of what is possible with Cortana.

If you're a hardware manufacturer or developer looking to build services that tie into a home automation platform, do you choose Cortana, which has no dedicated devices, or Amazon Echo, which just rolled out to 80 countries? That's an easy answer.

Where is the global flagship Cortana device?

Save for a small handful of PCs with far-field microphone tech, yelling into your laptop's microphone is an utterly frustrating experience, and it pales in comparison to a dedicated microphone array, as seen with Amazon's Echo speakers or even Microsoft's own, now dead, Kinect sensor. Where is the global flagship Cortana device?

Alexa, and other products, such as Google Home, have their own growing pains in non-US countries for sure, but at least Alexa already has far more capabilities in her main territories and can be used adequately in dozens of other countries providing you speak one of her languages. Microsoft's excuse for the lack of Cortana support in other countries has often been to blame localization issues, but as a Brit, there is literally no downside to using Cortana set to a U.S. language. Cortana's features just work when you switch her language, but Microsoft asks you to put up with the annoying inconveniences that can arise from having your device location separated from your OS location for the privilege.

Get real or get out

Cortana used to have music recognition, but Microsoft killed it off too.

Cortana used to have music recognition, but Microsoft killed it off too.

Cortana is starting to look like it could be the next big Microsoft consumer product to be thrown on the scrap heap, following Groove Music, Windows 10 Mobile, and various other legacy products.. Cortana is a little different, though, in the sense that she is merely a portal to Microsoft's Bing search engine, which has enjoyed market share growth.

Why keep a dead feature baked into Windows itself, though? Cortana hasn't received a meaningful update in what feels like years at this point. The Cortana button in my taskbar feels like a useless, vestigial limb. Cortana on Xbox is miserably inadequate. Cortana is clunky, slow, and with Kinect sales now killed off, literally unusable for new Xbox owners. The whole fiasco is just embarrassing.

In a recent editorial, our Executive Editor Daniel Rubino outlined his view that Microsoft is working towards a grander, more focused vision, where products are more finely curated before being pushed out to consumers.

The idea of relying on Microsoft services for personal computing is becoming less tenable.

Groove, Microsoft Band, and Windows Phone are all products that, in Rubino's view, represented the old Microsoft, whose notorious silo-style workspace led to a litany of half-baked products that were either broken or simply too late to market. Which side of the fence does Cortana lie on? At this point, it's hard to tell.

What is the deal here, Microsoft? Is Cortana next on the chopping block? Or do you still have plans to improve her? You need to answer that question sooner than later because it looks like the era of the smart assistant is about to become yet another major computing market you guys missed out on.

There's a wider argument to tap into here, but Cortana represents a single facet of a pervasive problem where, as a core user, it's starting to feel like the very idea of relying on Microsoft services and systems for personal computing is becoming less and less tenable. Cortana could become another reason for Microsoft users to jump to another ecosystem and never look back.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • The speaker sounds amazing!! But yeah I just feel like MS is late with everything and only putting in half the effort. Why is there a thermostat (and nothing else) why have a smart speaker and not have stuff to connect and control? Cortana isn't even talked about anymore when speaking of voice assistant ai anymore largely due to mobile. There's tons of money to be made in the smart home space and I'd like to say "Hey Cortana" instead of "Echo" but investing in these things that don't have really any sign of a decent ecosystem is crazy. It saddens me honestly because I'm a fan and I want them to win on this front or at least to be a major player but the act like that's what they really want.
  • I can't even use Cortana on my Xbox one because I get a message saying it is not available in Canada. I bought some Google speakers for the home, they are great. I suppose that Microsoft lost me as a potential customer.
  • "Once upon a time, Cortana was going to revolutionize productivity and organization for every user of the Microsoft ecosystem"
    Umm yeah.  That can be said about just about everything cool Microsoft starts and fails to continue.    
  • An unfortunate, but seemingly true statement. It would be nice if, Microsoft for once, put forth real effort behind their consumer products. I understand that products have to make money but, it's like MS will only try, if they see immediate approval and acceptance of their products. I also realize that a business has to make money. However, when a company like Microsoft co. Especially up with great ideas, fails to implement them or late to the game, they have to expect that they will have to put more effort, time and money ey I to it for it to take hold. Otherwise, stop tip toeing into the market and just do the damn thing. They are more than capable, but willing to do what is necessary to make things happen. Doing things in the background to hopefully create a foundation for a product is no longer a viable option. I'm not saying that they should be careless with how they do things, but a more aggressive approach is needed, if they hope to have any type of consumer market to compete.
  • Agreed, MS is the king of the half baked disaster as we all know, but in the case of Cortana outside the US we can only DREAM of a half baked solution. Even in the UK it seems MS have yet to get the ingredients into the bowl, and in most places they still haven't made it out to the shops to buy the groceries. As far as companies are concerned, MS is your stoner neighbour who never cuts the lawn and doesn't get up till midday. They certainly don't do baking. How long before MS confirms they are fully committed to Windows, but it will only be available with enterprise licences going forward? Seems all MS can do these days is dig more trenches...
  • Hey, what's wrong with cutting the grass midday?
  • Yep. They have promised to do amazing things with phones, kinetic, Xbox....
  • If its not an Xbox or PC I stay away! Got a phone and surface 2 in a box somewhere around here.
  • The thing I don't understand is, Cortana if implemented correctly has the opportunity to keep windows relevant in the future, something that certainly isn't guaranteed today. An integrated personal digital assistant working flawlessly across all devices has the potential to be a real game changer keeping MS and its products front and centre in an ever changing digital landscape, but as usual 'ApathySoft' can't be bothered or simply don't have the vision to persist and make things work. It's disgraceful the path this once industry leading group are now on. Apathy reigns.
  • Exactly! First to invent and market only to give it up to other latercomers without a fight...
  • I agree but it all depends on the support Microsoft gets. They didn't create harmon's speaker they didn't create the thermostat. They cant do it all sadly. They need developers, engineers and companies to create devices with their OS/Software.
  • I don't think you get developers by having a reputation of not being able to stick to a product for at least two freaking years.
  • It was Microsoft's choice to not make their own speaker. A 3rd party isn't going to support an ecosystem more than a first party.
  • The Xbox One should be capable of being a Cortana controlled hub for things like smart home. Exactly like Apple has done with the Apple TV and HomeKit. But it's not. And Cortana is still basically useless compared to the other assistants outside of the U.S. Microsoft has plenty of resources, needs to start applying them.
  • This is not true but I'm not sure if it is only in the US. If you have a SmartThings hub (probably Wink too) I can tell Cortana to control my devices just the same as if I was speaking into my Invoke or PC, the only place I have mixed results in on my Elite x3. I think the BIGGEST confusion about Cortana and smart home devices is Microsoft has taken the OEM approach the same as they did with PCs. If others manufacture the components and allow Microsoft/Cortana to connect to their services, it technically works. But they are being flat out morons about it. I doubt you can walk into a Microsoft store and have someone tell how to use your xbox to turn on your lights or control your temperature cause Microsoft isn't vocal about how to do it but it IS possible. My Xbox is the reason I have 3 Invokes and not 4 because it does the exact same ****, people are just dense about it but I understand the country limitations.
  • A smartthings hub is an extra piece of equipment. The Apple TV has the necessary built into it. The Xbox One has Cortana built into it. There is zero reason why it can't be an Invoke.
  • Until Cortana's skills are built into picking up the concept of "things" (light bulbs, switches, thermostats) without an extra piece of equipment, then it will never be what Alexa or Siri is. And that is where I think there is confusion from Microsoft. They will say, use Wink or SmartThings whereas we will say "Why can't Cortana do it directly like Alexa?" I'm willing to bet manufacturers are unwilling to commit to integrating the APIs yet because they need to be convinced the millions of PCs or thousands of Invokes are worth the time. For me my Xbox is an Invoke, but both my Xbox and Invoke would be useless without the extra piece of equipment unlike an Echo or Google Mini.
  • I am hopeful after reading the article @ . Windows Central team, you should mention something about this for the MS fans likes us to be hopeful
  • After reading the geekwire article, I think Microsoft is focusing more on selling the platforms like Windows IoT core, Windows 10 modular OS (Intel and ARM) to OEMs to build new products. Cortana is integrated to all these platforms. In otherwords Microsoft is not planning to compete with Alexa and they see a future where we use both Cortana and Alexa. I am looking forward to that future
  • I read the article and playing the long game in this market is going to fail just like it did with phones. Amazon and to a lesser extent Google are  dominating the market and between them they have 95% of the sales. In the article the MS VP for Cortana says that today these smart assistants don't do a whole lot and they want to have a better experience. That is great, but I am sure that Amazon and Google want that too. The difference is that their boxes will be already in 55% of US homes by 2022 and they will continue adding capabilities. So MS might have a great product down the road but Amazon and Google will already own the market, not to mention getting their assistants into cars, TVs, appliances, your phone, your PC. 
  • Slighlty disagree with your point. The success or failure of Cortana will mostly depend up on the success of Windows IoT core or Windows Core OS. OEMs have the options to choose Windows IoT Core (just like Johnson Controls did for the Thermostat) OR Custom Android as the OS for controlling their devices (thermostat, refrigerator...etc.) and if they decided to go with Windows IoT, Cortana is built in and they can easily expose the functions through Cortana where as they need additional effort to integrate Alexa or Google. Microsoft's can convinvce the OEM that if they integrate with Cortana, they don't need to worry about the Alexa integration as Alexa can control the device through the Alexa - Cortana friendhip. I think Microsoft's recent partnership with Qualcomm and other hardware companies is going to be key here..
  • Have the speaker also have Alexa. The Harmam Kardon is 20times better with the sound much more
    superior to Alexa
  • But how is Cortana compared to Alexa, that's more important. If you want a great wireless music speaker that can play Spotify there are plenty of options out there.
  • It doesn't come close to Alexa.... You need to be a spotify premium user for it to work with spotify as well.   Speaker sounds great.  Works with my home automation (Wink), but is much slower than Alexa.
  • What if you want one that can stream music through Groove though? I miss the days when Microsoft was a real company.
  • Based on my own experiences using Cortana to control Spotify on PC since last week, it is more accurate than Alexa.  Quite a few pop singer names can't be recognized by Alexa, but Cortana has no problem with them.  So I start using Cortana a lot more now just for this very reason.  I have a set of premium speakers connected to PC.  It works perfectly.  I can also switch to other Echo speakers connected to the same wifi network via the Spotify app. 
  • Playing Devil's Advocate, Google Assistant is probably better than both of them.
  • Have you all at WC considered doing an in-depth comparison on Cortana, Alexa, Google, Siri capabilities? That might be a popular debate
  • Not to mention Harman Kardon has a new speaker coming out like the Invoke with Alexa in it. 
  • I think so lowly of Cortana right now (breaks my heart) I bought my daughter an invoke to work as a BT speaker. She uses it in the bathroom while she showers...this is how little I believe in Cortana's future.
  • Harmon Kardon is owned by Samsung now, so with Samsung having Bixby, how long will Cortana even have a speaker of her own?
  • There will be others like the one Xiaomi will release soon.  It will support both Cortana and Alexa at a cost of $30.
  • My Echo Dot is connected, via Bluetooth, to my Bose 5.1 home theater system. Sounds better than the Harmon Kardon, but it doesn't work with Cortana.
  • To me it feels like Cortana is a sinking ship now too. Alexa is so far ahead and only Google Home will catch it now. Cortana and Apple with their Home Pod will be left way way behind. I deleted Cortana off my Android phone only today because J just don't see the point in it when theirs better alternatives already baked in. I still have her on my PC, Surface Pro and Xbox One though. There is rumour of Cortana being integrated into Microsoft Launcher which I use so we'll see if that bears any fruit
  • this looks really bad for MS. why would any other company build a cortana device now with these rumors up in the air, or in general why would any other company or developer (let alone consumers) trust them after all that happened during the last months/years. really good job, MS
  • oh, and really 'before it's too late' for cortana?? little late for that question
  • I used Cortana on the first day I installed W10 and I haven't used it since. Maybe I'm not the target demographic though, as I have no interest in buying an assistant spyware device into my home.
  • At first, when I heard of the spyware stuff back when Windows 10 shipped, I didn't liked it. I turned all that stuff off and used only the basic. Then I realize that the spyware stuff does not compromise my information like passwords and bank accounts. They just want info about me. I turned everything back on... I don't care if these companies know me or not. They just want to target adds to me which I will block anyway. I don't have anything to hide and it is not like you can stop the government when it was spying high officers on other countries. Who am I in comparison? lol. So far, I had no problems at all.
  • It's already too late. Now it's Amazon VS Google, that's it.
  • Sad.. Why doesn't Microsoft ever follow through?
  • I think in the past they could dangle the carrot in front of partners and there would be a rush to fill in the painting, now not so much.  They need to learn to just do it and quit waiting on someone to finish the picture for them.  Maybe a coupe wins would turn things around but for now they are stuck rowing their own boat but they forgot to bring enough paddles. 
  • This is so true. In the 90's, that's how things worked for them, but there are lots of options and alternatives for their partners today who happily now go to the opposition instead. MS need to wake up, understand times have changed and develop and build for themselves. If they continue to wait for others to complete their dreams' as they have over the last decade they are dead moving forward. Time to take the lead, set the bar, if the partners want to join in great, if not move on, develop and promote your own products. The days of waiting for others to finish the dream are over, move on or die, simple.
  • because MS is ran by an idiot.
  • I actually use Cortana a lot on my pc. From sending texts to setting reminders. Find her really useful for quick things.
  • The bad thing is, the best experience with Cortana is still on my Windows Phone. Despite my PC being far being more powerful, Cortana on PC still doesn't seem to do as much as on my WP. Too bad I don't use my WP any more. My Invoke is a decent speaker but Cortana does even less than on PC. On the plus side, my Invoke responds far more quickly than Cortana on PC.  It is sad, when I got Cortana on WP 8 it was far better in most aspects than Siri on my wifes iphone or Google on my son's Galaxy Note. Today the others have caught up and Cortana seems to have actually moved backwards. Of course if not in capabilities, than certainly in penetration, Alexa is killing all of them. AMazon is predicted to sell 25 million of them in 2018.
  • You must be in the US, here in Aus she is a paper weight - as useless as t i t s on a bull.
  • "Microsoft says it's still committed to Cortana".....I'm sure I've heard this before
  • exactly. feels like they put out their still-committed on a weekly basis lately. But yeah, this will be totally different for the great Surface Phone / Windows 10 S 
  • The second you hear it the death clock starts ticking.  
  • Yup, that  phrase has become synonymous with, "Our board of directors is not consumer focused, so kill it with apathy."
  • It is true that every time MS 'focus' on something and 'commit' to something or 'will fully support' something we all know that means Ol' Nads is hankering for a retrenching. That's why it's so disappointing to hear about their renewed commitment to gaming and Xbox. Everyone knows what that means now, and it meets a wall of sighs.
  • Sad really, only used cortana to read out text over Bluetooth in the car when forced to on Windows 10, on 8 didn't need to.
    When the sync works across devices works so after reading and dismissing a notification it doesn't appear on another device I might try it again,
    Also doesn't work as well as Google in my opinion
  • If you want an excellent microphone array interface to Cortana, the Harman Kardon Invoke is an great choice.  I use it everyday.  I am surprised as to how well it can hear me and I am always learning new things to say to it.  Controls my Insteon lights, etc.
  • It's an awful choice, because needing to move to the US to buy it and get any useful on going functionality is a costly premium.
  • Bad choice. Cortana is likely to be killed off.
  • As stated, actions speak louder than words. Ship has sailed, now all the talk is of Alexa and Google Assistant being integrated practically everywhere. Microsoft will have a few announcements but real world applications will be minimal and ultimately fade into oblivion, just like so many other Microsoft products. They haven't yet learned that half hearted efforts don't cut it with agile competitors like Amazon and google around.
  • Excellent read, well done sir. It was just about time someone spoke out about this.
    We've been throught all of this l'm afraid. Listening to good ol "we are committed to xyz" while seeing no meaningful updates and then after some time they simply announce "well, we cannot differentiate xyz on the market so we're dumping it out".
    I'm already on android, so my ms phone story is over. For the truth to be told, google assistant can pretty much decimate cortana. But i still use windows pc and your last paragraph really nailed it - we're having less and less reason to stay.
  • Kind of like promoting Groove with 3 months free service, etc. and all the while knowing it will be shut down. What they say and what they are doing behind the curtain are not always the same thing. I really wanted the H/K speaker but when I read you cannot even stream your own uploaded music on OneDrive through Groove (other than BT from your phone) I decided to go to another ecosystem. I've got a drawer full of MS devices that were abandoned. Decided not to add any to that.
  • Um... are these articles just the old Windows Phone article but replace "Windows Phone" with Cortana? /sarcasm But this just feels like Windows Phone all over again. Something with so much potential, and Microsoft just giving us half-assed answers that they're serious, they're working on it, and then it's just gone.
  • Yep, soon Windows will only be available with an enterprise licence I expect. If we hear MS say they are completely committed to Windows soon I will not exactly be shocked.
  • Great article. Equal parts critical and insightful, but just overall an honest look. Refreshingly, not a fluff piece.
  • The author of this article read my mind exactly and put words to it. I agree with him entirely.
  • Not being a troll. I think it's already too late... ...because, as you said in the article, if they were serious about Cortana she'd be available in more countries by now. She'd be promoed like crazy. Microsoft would be comparing her to the competition and showing off all of her capabilities.  She would be installed on every little Internet of Things coming out today because of how robust and capable she is. Unfortunately, she is not and it shows. That's just how it goes.
  • I agree with every word you wrote. MS has become a clueless organization missing every sense of direction and urgency. They are the famous paralyzed rabbit looking into the headlight of a car waiting to be run over.
  • microsoft only serious about selling their desktop os to enterprises,actually microsoft needs a better leader if they want to stay windows in this planet.
  • Jez, I agree with every word.
  • This is a great article and Jez made a lot of good points.  We all know Microsoft has showcased great new products only to let them die as they continue to disenfranchise their diminishing consumer base.  While that narrative fits very well into th Cortana discussion, the part that intrigued me the most was the part about Alexa on PC. If Microsoft does'nt have consumer products and if Microsoft does'nt have a way for those products, if they existed, to be connected, then in a wholly connected future, I really don't see any place for Microsoft to exist. Consumers will migrate to other operating systems that offer easy and full featured connectivity.  Small businesses will follow because that's the tech their workforce knows.  Enterprise will loose interest with Microsoft if AI isn't available across an entire technical ecosystem. If this happens, Microsoft may eventually migrate from being a Tech leader to a third party supplier.  Please, Microsoft, get your sh*t together.
  • Uh, it is already too little and too late for Cortana.  Too little and too late seems be be a common theme for Microsoft.  Cortana is dead.
  • I'd still do her.  
  • A couple of reasons that Cortana is different than some other consumer products like mobile and Groove music pass: 1. It's basically just a front-end to Bing. It would cost them to make Cortana better, but isn't really costing them anything to keep Cortana at its current level since they have to keep all that back-end anyway. Groove cost them a lot in license fees, so that's why that had to go. I don't think Cortana will straight-up die. More likely it will just stagnate. 2. Cortana is not just consumer. Microsoft could really leverage their dominance in business tech (Office, Dynamics, Azure) and turn Cortana into a business assistant. They do some stuff like this already, e.g. reading your Office email and seeing that there's reference to a meeting, so it offers to make you a calendar entry. That direction with a lot more of it would be fantastic. Maybe we reach a point where you use Cortana for work and then Alexa/Google for home. That's probably not a bad scenario for Microsoft. It's also the direction their mobile efforts seem to be going - you would use Andromeda as an extra unique business tool alongside your Android/iOS. But then seeing them kill the Dynamics connector definitely confuses that option which I otherwise would have thought was likely. I have to think they're doing something more advanced with Dynamics; why else would they kill a connector that would be relatively easy to maintain to a product that they also control?
  • The problem seems to be that the enterprise largely disables Cortana I their deployment.
  • Sounds logical and this is my thought as well. This is in alignment with the proposed Cortana - Alexa partnership. As Alexa is a market leader now and Cortana has not penetrated to the enterprise (most of the organizations are disabling Cortana) the challenges for Cortana are, Alexa is eyeing on the enterprise market (Alexa for business).  Car Manufactures along with other companies are ready to develop the Alexa skills  OEMs like Asus, HP, Lenovo are enabling Alexa on their devices (currently on ARM PCs) Enterprises may not see Cortana's strengths (Office, D365, PowerBI Integration ...etc.) as a game changer as they have opened up access to e-Mails and Apps over the phone Cortana - Alexa friendship hasn't happened yet and not sure Alexa is really interested in that considering that Cortana is not a friend of any enterprise yet BTW, MS confirmed that they are working on a new connector for D365. If MS is able to convince enterprises about the Andromeda device and Cortana's use in it to improve productivity on the move by leaps and bounds, Cortana stands a chance. Let's be hopeful !
  • Yes, it costs to keep software up-to-date and enable it for lots of countries. The alternative is to become irrelevant. Why bother to develop Cortana in the first place if you're not going to move it forward? So while it doesn't cost them any cash to keep Cortana at its current level, not upping their game causes them to be bypassed in the marketplace. It will stagnate - so slow death.  Groove is a great example - they never got a family plan. Spotify did. Yup it's the cost of doing business. What was the cost of going the route of family plan v.s. going through the effort of building the Groove music service only to let it die. From the public's perspective, Cortana doesn't exist. It's never mentioned. It's Alexa and Google Now with an occasional nod at the pathetic Siri. 
  • Actually it is the same wording that existed in Windows Mobile era. It was official statement that it costs them nothing to keep Windows Mobile aside that they need to invest in ARM support and telephony and they want to keep developing those features even without Windows Mobile, so it costs them nothing. Well not really.
  • Like it wouldn't cost them anything to keep making new Windows 10 Mobile builds since it was the "same" as big Windows 10? It just doesn't work like that. There's always a cost and it makes no sense for MS to spend money on a stagnating product.
  • Microsoft is just Letting The Past Die.  It’s their “strategy”, after all.  
  • maybe someone should have told them that with this 'strategy' it is always recommended not to give everyone the impression that you are dying with your past
  • Microsoft...letting the future more of their strategy..
  • Indeed.   Their future is dying, not their past.  
  • Then they will be letting the company die. You can't kill off every great idea because you're too lazy to make it work.
  • I am so appreciative of this article. I am the target demo for Cortana. I was a big user on Windows Phone, but recently I had to shift to Android OS just to stay relevant. I'm trying to stay with Cortana in that OS, but I need it to integrate more with Android and be, well, relevant to my mobile life. It needs to compliment apps, empower me to work smarter and quicker. It's clunky, and I have to really try to use it. Integration is the path forward. If I'm going to use it, it needs to be something I can't work without.
  • Gee, maybe the Surface Phone will be what saves Cortana. BWAHAHAHAH
  • Yes, the Surface Unicorn will save everything!
  • Too late...
  • How do we fire Nadella? 
  • Not just Nadella. Everyone. Time for new blood throughout the company.
  • Explain how MS's consumer failures impacts its big money maker: The enterprise. Your comment spews unrealistic expectations.
  • It will start with consumers and eventually Enterprise will follow. Microsoft isn't untouchable as you and Microsoft themselves like to think. They became complacent because of that way of thinking. When developers are concentrated on other platforms, it will just be a matter of time before those platforms make more sense in the Enterprise as well.
  • No lie, the last 3 CEOs I've worked under have asked "Why can't we just use Apple computers?" in Microsoft shops. Microsoft is thriving through revamped legacy products, not through new products and reputation.
  • I think I'll chew him up alive.
  • Indian CEOs usually want to sink their company to accelerate getting the golden parachute. Then move to another company and sink the next one. My guess is this is Nadella's strategy. He already closed a lot of good products - Windows Phone, Kinect, Groove Music, Band 2, Hololens?, Cortana? I smiled when I saw Nadella's book in the Microsoft store during the Christmas holiday. I think he is more interested in selling his book.
  • It's a shame Cortana isn't better on Android because I really liked her on Windows Mobile. Now she just kinda feels like a third wheel that syncs my notifications to my computer and stares at me from my taskbar. But maybe that's just me.
  • This is starting to play out like the mobile market. You now see "Works with Alexa and Google Assistant" on products and never do they mention Cortana. Same as "Get our App on the Apple Store or Google Play" that never mentioned the Windows Store. Once again, Microsoft is slow to market, doesn't have a competitive product and puts forth minimal effort. It has to be an internal issue which will always go back to the management. It is time to clean house.
  • Agreed, they miss the boat time and time again. I think they think, yeh will every windows 10 pc has cortana so by default people have it on a large range of devices. But who actually uses it? Mind you, I don't know anyone who really uses Siri either. Alexa has absolutely dominated this segment of the market, much like they did with e-reader market with Kindle. You think voice assistant you think Alexa now.
  • I think it's a problem with how Microsoft is structured right now. The talent is there but isn't utilized well. They aren't agile as a result. Also their marketing and sales teams suck. I haven't seen a single Microsoft ad since surface pro4 in India but amazon and alexa is everywhere.
  • I don't believe Microsoft was slow to market.  Truth is they were way ahead of this market with the Kinect.  They failed to assimalate the Kinect in a way they could have.  They could have had different types of Kinects with voice activation.  They were slow to "market" their product better.  This product should have been what Alexa is today.  So no they weren't slow to the market, they were just abysmal at progressing with a great product. 
  • Wii beat them to the gimmicky motion input thing. Obviously it didn't work that well and Microsoft couldn't find a compelling use for it anyways. I think that kinda of "casual" gaming experience is better served by the Nintendo crowd. They were slow to market. They still don't have a home speaker. Windows phone came out 4 years behind the iPhone. Band was released years after Fitbit. Same with Groove, years behind Spotify. The Zune was several years behind the iPod. These products weren't great, at least not as good as they needed to be after getting to market too late. Mediocre products years too late will not go anywhere. If you are late to market, your product really needs to make up for it.
  • While I don't care for the somber dismissive tone of the article... I agree with the intent behind the base question, "what is up with Cortana?" When she debuted, people just didn't seem to understand why they would want to use her any more than why they'd go to Clippy for help.  Yet, Alexa arrives on scene and has been well promoted.  She is on everything now and compatible with nearly every smart device worth it's salt.  Meanwhile, as the author states, we only have the Invoke and GLAS. Aside from its ubiquity, I wouldn't say that anything Cortana does Alexa does better.  In my personal experience, Cortana was always faster and able to recognize more speech than Alexa and most definitely more than Google and Siri. If Microsoft offered compelling products (at this point mostly centered around Smart Home) I would switch in a heartbeat.  Alexa is built around funneling purchases into Amazon.  Cortana is not.  Unfortunately for Microsoft, Amazon had the foresight to make Alexa more extensible and I have to say that while many if not most skills are so-so, they still exist and that is a great step towards increasing visibility and a good marketing gimmick for device manufacturers. As a side note, I still think Microsoft has room to enter the Smart Home market with seriousness.  Echo devices are great, but from a larger point of view isn't yet quiet as expansive as products such as SmartThings.  Apple HomeKit is, well (for me), its terrible.  Just bad.  Microsoft could enter and establish a real presence, but they may need to rename their business to something other than Microsoft at this point.  Anyhow. Thanks for the article. I, too, want to know WTF is up with Microsoft.  I was ecstatic when Samsung Focus and Windows Phone 7 debuted.  Kinect.  Surface.  Zune.  SkyDrive.  Groove + OneDrive. Cortana.  Hololens.  New Surface line-up, etc. It is hard seeing many of these things falling by the way side they way they have been.   The only question I really haven't asked is whether or not I should be a fan at all.  Google fans are hard core and adamant. iOS users are equally intense even in the face of #slowgate.  But I feel like they have reason to be fans...  In spite of the enormous amount of innovation that Microsoft is driving, they are simply too slow or uncommitted to give themselves a chance.
  • I was a long time just
    Microsoft and Windows supporter (I remember Windows 95!), but even before the smartphone became big it was obvious they were falling behind. It started with Gmail for me. Seeing how simple and effective software could be was such a fresh very from the complicated mess of Windows and email at the time. Looking at all the products you mentioned, not a single one was new or innovative. They were all "me too" services and devices. Not a single one had a killer argument to use it instead of any of the competition that beat them to market. Lameness from Microsoft all around.
  • "In my personal experience, Cortana was always faster and able to recognize more speech than Alexa and most definitely more than Google and Siri." Have you used Google Now recently? I really liked the MS ecosystem - I was Surface Pro 3, Lumia 950 and Microsoft Band 2 guy. When MS Phone died, I went to an LG V20 (and later the V30). I tried "Microsofting" my phone with the Arrow Launcher, defaulting to Cortana and Bing etc. It was painful. I was going to give it a week. I lasted 3 days. Cortana is so much slower than Google Now. It's also less accurate, at least in my experience. And I live and work in the U.S. It's a no-go in most other countries.  I still use some MS services, but I don't think MS will continue to be a consumer company. Google was a terrible consumer company, now it's fair. I think it will move up to be good (but not great). It will step into the consumer space that MS will lose. When it lost mobile, it lost its future as a consumer products/services company. 
  • Cortana, Smart Home, auto AI, Bing and many more sectors do not stand a chance wthout a mobile platform behind them. It is obviously they already abandoned Cortana, they just don't want to accounce another conusmer failure
  • I disagree with this somewhat as relates to Cortana. Amazon doesn't have a mobile presence (the fire phone doesn't count) and they have dominated (70%) the smart speaker/assistant market in just three years and are expected to sell over a billion dollars worth of them in 2018. heck, they sold over 10 million Echos just over Christmas .Now Alexa is moving into phones, PCs, cars, refrigerators, and about every other device under the sun. 
  • I use Cortana to some extent on the PC. I used to use it more on my W10M but the Android offering is not a shadow of that, so it doesn't get used half as much. I would be tempted to use the Invoke (or perhaps if an alternative ever surfaces) but unlikely to, for fear of getting burned again. There's only so much redundant hardware one can cling on to. MS need to make their minds up - either get behind it, or stop dishing out so much bu11shit!
  •  "If you're based in the U.S., your experience with Cortana will wildly differ from my own, being in the UK, where half of Cortana's services and capabilities aren't available"... That's the problem of the MS services. They still believe their business chances are in certain regions (their choosen regions are crowded of Apple & Google lovers by the way)... Google services and business are worldwide...
  • If it isn't successful in the US, why spend even more money proliferating a failure? If you failed in almost any market, especially the US, it is a tough to argue it is anything other than the value of the product. You grow a business that succeeds, not one that fails.
  • That's my biggest disappointment with MS: USA is 330 million people market with a high Apple / Google fanbase whereas the opportunities are with the other 7 billion people that are under-served by MS
  • Share price may be going up but consumer confidence is down. Makes me sad that everything good MS starts is killed and never lives up to it's full potential simply because of MS failure to go all in and push their products from the start instead of slowly doing bits here and there letting new or existing products overtake them before killing them. Right now I am down to Xbox / Outlook / Onedrive / Office as my remaining MS services (outside of W10 on my laptop) if something happens to Outlook email or Onedrive then I will have little reason for Office 365. I think MS is on a scary path pushing away consumers to focus on business / cloud.
  • MS killed yet another promising product... she is already dead... no music recognition... Alexa coming to Pcs... MS too big too bloated and scared to be the first to the market place with a smart speaker... combined with killing groove killed cortana.
  • Bring on Alexa on PC.  Right where cortana is now!  That would be perfect actually.  Something with some use, and skills.  
  • So in the future is all voice assisted AI going to have a female name or voice? (Cortana, Siri, Alexa, Home)
  • I heard that people are more comfortable telling girls what to do, that is why they are all female.
  • You left out all the computers in the Star Trek series.
  • I think we all know the answer here
  • Microsoft admitting Cortana falling behind due to lack of Bing and speech recognition strengths, I'd say they have already lost and will be fading out. This basically means that Cortana will never ever be available outside of already supported regions, while for one, Apple is already present with required technology in all regions wihtout Cortana. Bing had failed to gain ground since forever. If Microsoft failed to bring Bing to countries for years, what will make them do so in the near future?
  • People need to get real. Cortana is dead even if Microsoft doesn't think it is. And anything most of us care about is in trouble until there is enough screaming to get rid of this clown. The whole denying this guy is a lame duck just because you will be called a racists if you do has gotten this company in deep trouble. The guy flat out sucks. He isn't a leader AT ALL. There is absolutely nothing he brings to the table. At this point, just prey that they smarten up and dump him hard before the rest is all wrecked under him. He may not directly can what you care about, but I can guarantee you his idiotic decisions will eventually start causing damage to it.
  • I'm sorry, but I think you're just dead wrong. I think the thing everyone is mad at Nadella about is, just acknowledging the real obvious answer here: CONSUMERS, esp in the US, haven't considered MS anything OTHER than the company that makes the computer they use at work, and much rarely at home. Computers that you sit down to use, at a desk or with a laptop. And MS is identified so strongly, for bad and good, with that useage that they are just not even in the mind of common everyday consumers in regards to any other computing they may do. And the evidence now is clear - it's been this way for LONG time. We're talking post Vista. This happened under Balmer. Around 2006? By 2009 network tv shows about geeks were writing jokes about specific MS branded products. That's huge. The negative connotation about MS had already taken root in the geek world, and then it spread to the rest of the general consumers. We know the stories about trying to by win phone in the stores, and just look at the list of failed consumer product attempts, from zune to kin to win phone 7, 7.5, 8, 8.1, 10...and now the services. It's pretty obvious that the general population of many nations only identify MS with what they believed them to be in 1999.  That's almost 20 years. There is no amount of marketing that can fix this - this kind of brand identity is set in complete stone. The only way to get out of it is to come up with something so completely different and new, that nothing you were associated with fits any more. This is a miracle to pull off, and so apple did and started a perfect storm and then capitalized on it. But it took years to do.  I was one of the MS faithful, I forced the ATT store rep to go back and get a Focus on day one out of the back room when they didn't bother to set it up. I stood in line the first morning to get a surface rt. Got a Surface Book on day 1. Had an original zune, then a HD. So I've played the MS Fanboy for a long time. But at the end of the day, there just weren't enough of us to make a bit of difference. The rest of the world looked on indifferently. And now Surface is a success of a sort, but it's a success in the fact that it just lets people do what they've always associated with MS - use a computer on a desk or as a laptop. But a thing to do a thing. Rarely needed by the general population any more. I see Jez post these really frustrated and pleading articles, and I get it. And I don't know what happens to MS in general in the next 10, 20 years. Maybe something miraculous happens and they become relevant again. But it will have to be for something not related to windows in any shape or form, IMO. As long as people equate that, they will continue to look on at MS, and yawn.
  • "If you're based in the U.S., your experience with Cortana will wildly differ from my own, being in the UK, where half of Cortana's services and capabilities aren't available." If you are living in Norway she don't speek at all. Even if almost all Norwegian speaks English.
  • It's already too late. They have been too slow, essentially only making it full featured (and thus useful) in the US...and fluffed about trying to 'perfect' it for other Markets. Once Nadella forced the majority of us to the competitions phones, i for one fired up Android for the first time, and there was the Google Assistant, fully featured and with no message of 'We're sorry, this feature isn't available in your region'. This is a particularly frustrating message when it's four years later, and you live in a country where English is the first language. I was truly excited about Cortana four years ago. She's a non-event for me now, and for most people, especially without a Phone option. It's only a matter of time before the lack of traction sees her taking a place in the Redmond graveyard, no matter what they say in the meantime.
  • First it was an app gap now it is a skills gap. Like Windows Phone and Groove Music, no one cares about Cortana. Microsoft's best plan now is to get bought out by Amazon.
  • Because EVERYTHING is half ass under Nutella. I don't k now whyy we keep reading articles pretending it isn't and that there is some secret plan of his that is going to fix all this. It's not happening. He is doing this for as long as he can line his pocket books because it is easy and fast cash. Articles would be better served on this site calling for his job...not talking about unicorns and rainbows.
  • Looking at most all measures people use to judge a successful company, he doing a great job. Stock price is up, dividends are up, sales and profits are up, their cash on hand is up. Cloud sales have already eclipsed Windows sales and are close to those of Office (MS biggest money maker). Azure revenue almost doubled in 2017.They are second in cloud computing behind Amazon. We as MS fans, may lament the loss of WP, Band, Groove etc. and even the potential long term loss of MS as a consumer company. Satya may be taking the company in that direction, and we may not like it, but the shareholders, and the markets, sure do. 
  • ....and then had Jeff Bezos beam Nad out to mars.
  • Ya know, you have a great idea: Amazon buy Microsoft. Amazon would pick up everything Alexa does not have. 1) Search for answering general questions: Bing. 2) Email, calendar, and tasks: Office, 3) OS for mounting all this on things other than smart speaker: Windows. This would be brilliant. I'd have an Alexa email address, calendar, and 1st party task/shopping list. Rebrand it all Echo and have a full arsenal to take on Google/Apple. Kudos sir, I think you nailed it.
  • Come on BEZOS!  Buy the controlling share of MS,  and push this company to the future with awesome stuff!  Windows by amazon!  has a nice ring to it.
  • At this point I'm not gonna say this is a bad move
  • It's probably a bad move for Amazon.
  • This tells it like it is... 2018 is the year that we will see clear winners emerge — it’s possible that we may even see a single winner push into enough spaces to essentially take out everyone else — leaving everyone else to settle for a very small slice of the pie, partner with them…or simply disappear. So who are the players? Amazon is storming ahead in the ‘home smart speaker’ market with almost a 70% share — although Alexa is much more than just something that is in the Echo devices. They have wide range of developer integration points, and are rolling out more to allow others to embed Alexa into almost any device. They have a smart business model, with cheap devices to start you off, and an e-commerce platform that constantly advertises them. They have created a very ‘social’ device — one that encourages you to get one for your family and friends too (and hey, they are on sale right before Christmas!). They are getting smarter at creating easier ways to integrate with smart home devices too, targeting those less ‘tech savvy’ and further expanding market share. Google is staying strong, their technology is definitely a match, if not even better in some regards. They are adding integrations and tools for developers just as fast. While Amazon rules the ‘home smart speaker’ market, Google owns the ‘smartphone voice assistant’ market with almost a 50% share — something Amazon has almost no presence in. Google has both the technology and data to create a very powerful digital assistant, but the use of Voice Assistants on smartphones hasn’t been as successful as the home devices. Somehow we are still uncomfortable with communicating one-on-one with Voice Assistants — but the home device, with its less ‘personal’ presence has bridged a gap that the smartphone couldn’t. If Google can turn the tide on this they still have a chance of catching up, but the window is closing. Apple has somehow completely misstepped on this. They came early to the game with Siri, but maybe too early and with technology that disappointed. Although they have made strides to correct in some of the places they are weak, they are very far behind now. They have simply either gotten their timing and technology wrong, or they are playing a very long game. Microsoft has already spotted the writing on the wall, and although Cortana is in most Windows devices (which still have a large share of the personal computer space), it really hasn’t taken off. They have been smart however, and already formed a partnership with Amazon so that Cortana and Alexa can communicate. This is especially significant with the announcement of Alexa for Business, a place where Windows machines abound. Being able to talk to Alexa from your computer may be enough to get users to try it out, and maybe get comfortable enough with it to even start to use Cortana itself. It will never dominate, but it has taken steps to survive. In the US and UK, it’s unlikely anyone else will emerge in the next year to take that winning spot. For smaller startups wanting to get into this space integrating with the right system will be key — the winning Voice Assistant will get more integrations, and more integrations will push it ever further ahead. If you aren’t a big enough player, partnering will be the only option. 2. Explosion of the Smart Home Market With the smart home speaker being a major part of the Voice Assistant ecosystem, it makes sense that smart home devices would be a good target for integrations with it. The win here is that it makes sense from the other side too. Smart home devices should ideally be ‘zero touch’ — they should largely know what you want, observe your routine and, for instance, set the heat accordingly, or know when you leave the house and turn off the lights (or maybe randomly turn them on and off to create the illusion someone is at home). However, users still want some control over their devices and a way to manually intervene. Having to bring up a dedicated smartphone app, opening it and clicking through, is a big move away from the zero touch and disappearing interfaces that smart homes should provide. However, just speaking the commands is a much more frictionless experience, and so the ideal compromise when you need to move just a little past zero touch — and you still keep your invisible interface. As more Voice Assistants arrive in people’s homes (a lot more this Christmas I imagine), many are already coming with smart devices bundled, and smart devices are getting cheaper and more accessible to the non tech-savvy. Children will grow up used to smart homes. Adults will buy devices for their parents — both because they are getting cheaper, and trying to work out what to buy your parent is hard, but also because they should make life easier for both their parents and them. Smart devices also allow remote monitoring — is the grandparent’s house warm enough? Are they remembering to turn the lights off at bedtime? What about the oven? If the grandparents struggle to work the devices, most can be adjusted or turned on or off remotely. Smart home devices have been around for a long time, but as a niche item. They are about to become extremely mainstream. 3. Battle for Brand Surfacing As users move towards voice-only interfaces, any visual branding is stripped away. Given the already challenging problems of discovery on all chatbots, brands are going to have to work extra hard to get their names and products to bubble up to the top of the heap, and to be memorable when they get there. We’re going to see new job roles emerging for company and product branding specifically on Voice Assistant platforms. Some brands already have very iconic audio branding, many do not. If you’re a radio marketer or a jingle writer looking for a new gig, your time may have come. A more concerning question is whether a voice interface, with its need to slim down information to only the most pertinent, means the companies that own the assistant now totally control the users’ options. When a user says “Alexa, I need car insurance”, who gets to feature in the options offered? How will that be decided, and will it mean the death of smaller companies? Companies need to ask these questions now, and work to mitigate impact to their brand. Waiting isn’t an option if you want to remain relevant. 4. Renewed Focus on the Enterprise Almost all of the big players (Google, Apple, Microsoft) have ‘office productivity’ applications that they have been working to get more and more businesses to adopt (Microsoft and their Office Suite already has a big advantage here, but things like Google Docs and Keynote are sneaking in). All of these already offer integrations with their Voice Assistants. Amazon has not previously had a big cut of enterprise office tools, but Alexa for Business changes all that. With Microsoft’s partnership, as well as many other key integrations, they could easily storm past the other players. This will mean everyone will have to improve their game, something that will benefit office workers— who have actually not had the same advancements in this area of technology in their work life as they have in their personal life. But even more than this, we’re going to see a blending of work voice assistants and home voice assistants — you’ll be able to call up your work calendar from home, or check your personal one in the office. This will further incentivise people to choose the same Voice Assistant (or a partner one) as the one that your work has. Winning the enterprise will secure a good foothold in getting into the home too. 5. AI Pushes Capabilities Ever Faster Artificial Intelligence services have been seeing exponential growth, and their capabilities have been becoming ever more sophisticated. With democratised AI services, and the cloud allowing anyone to run a level of computing power unimaginable to any ‘normal’ person just a few years ago, we are seeing this technology accessible to all and being used widely. And the more people that actually use the services, the more data that flows through them, and the faster they improve. The more they improve, the more people will use them, and so on… In 2018 expect to see things that we would have thought very unlikely a year ago, and simply wouldn’t have thought to imagine five years ago. We are on the crest of a wave, and things are going to get very exciting very quickly. All of this will push the capabilities of Voice Assistants ever faster — we should expect not only to see them get increasingly smarter, but also more ‘human’. Simulated voices will sound less robotic, context and sentiment will adjust the interactions, and we will start to rely on them more and more.
  • Large initial sales om smart home speakers is no indication it will continue te be successful in the future. It better be right from start or the consumer might be disappointed even before it really kicks-off. Examples? 2014 3d TV hype - never mterialised, smart watches anyone?
  • Alexa beat everyone else, they threw 1500 engineers at the issue while others twiddling thier thumbs.  Amazon has the home sorted, with the deal with MS - Enterprise, mobile? Google dominates.  Cortana is headed the way of Groove, Windows Phone, Continuum, Zune..
  • You must be either slow or missed the memo. Cortana is history.
    For those stupid enough not to get it: Read this line whenever you have doubts.
  • They need to get their ass in gear on consumer stuff. The lines are getting blurred between businesses and home and they are gonna empty the whole clip into their foot.
    They need help, I am willing to assist.
  • I have said for three years that nutella is to dumb to see that the consumer base is heavily dictating a lot of what is used in the business force. This guy absolutely doesn't care what state this company is five years from now when he is sailing around on his yacht paid for by all of us suckers.
  • Someone gotta throw ol' Nad overboard and recover the compass before it hit rock bottom.
  • Alexa is going to be showing up in vehicles fairly soon, something trhat will never happen for Cortana. Sorry but its another failure from Microsoft. I have long since given up relying on this company for any sort of service outside the corporate space.     
  • Google Assistant is already there. The new features for Android Auto were really nice. Not sure how Amazon gets into the car, did they announce an infotainment system?
  • Its not Alexa as you know it, its Alexa designed as the default voice assistant in the car integrating with Android. Alexa is not just an app for buying things from Amazon any more, its branching out into a more capable voice assistant. 
  • What is Alexa going to do on a car? Buy gasoline jar? It is useless unless it can have Cortana's backend like work schedule, Bing, email, Exchange, maps, etc. MS and Amazon partnership is the challenge to Google. Either one alone isn't complete enough. I don't care if Alexa is the front end, as long my MS services are all linked. MS has the AI and cloud to pull it off on the backend, which Amazon doesn't yet. It's a good marriage.
  • What do you think Alexa will do in a car? The same thing the existing built in voice assistants do, read out and reply to messaages, access media, set destinations in sat navs etc etc. Seat (the spanish arm of VW) have already integrated Alexa into several models with more to come in 2018. I very much doubt if one of the worlds largest vehicle manufacturers are doing this on a prayer and a whim. Its not just VW either, Toyota will be adding Alexa to some of their vehicles later this year too along with BMW. 
  • Plenty possibilities: "Alexa, remind me to book my car for a service." "Alexa, order more screenwash." "Alexa, let the office know I'm stuck in traffic." "Alexa, What's on my to-do list?" "Alexa, will I need to put the roof up?" "Alexa, call for breakdown recovery."
  • I totally agree with the writer. Cortana is not being developed as fast as it should. It's frustrating to repeat the instructions over and over sometimes (at least with italian version). Not to mention the fact that she needs her servers even for the simplest and most local things. It's not reliable enough after all this time and it's extremely closed to developers for making new Cortana features. It's time for microsoft to wake up about the consumer field where the details, today more than ever, make the edge between success and death. It's a shame to let all these strategical sectors perish. Maybe it's time to change the team coach isnt'it?
  • Microsoft should be ashamed of themselves. Cortana ruined the XBOX experience for me, (as well as MS's decision to crap on the Kinect.) They relegated that console to a device in my entertainment center instead of the HUB that controls everything. Not sure what mictrosoft's consumer strategy is, but it sure sounds like they are leaning toward the Enterprise more and more.
  • Without consumer, they will eventually lose the enterprise battle also. Nutella is an idiot and doesn't want to believe it.
  • As a developer, I want to use Cortana for my fledgling product and I can't because it's locked behind subscription. Belfiore the idiot doesn't get it.  Microsoft just doesn't get it. Perhaps, like with iPhone back when he was leading Windows Phone, now he is in love with Alexa. Who knows? :D  That person should NOT be in Microsoft. Yet they have lost infinitely better people. 
  • "Hey Cortana ,did you speak in spanish?.... Cortana: "No,only english. "Oh my God she understand me"!
  • Micro$oft has missed the momentum. Again.
    It's like with every product they just want to show "Hey, we can do this, ye all see?" and then they simply call it a day and kill the product off.
    They don't even have the balls to say it out loud.
  • Thats exactly how I feel. The start strong and then say screw it if doesnt immedialty take off. I really think the investors/stock holders are holding the company down by not allowing to stick long term on projects. Its pretty sad. ZuneHD was so much better but gone. Groove/Zune was pretty good but now gone. Windows Phone was awesome at some point then withered away since MS didnt care. They have commitment issues and now Cortana will go as well. I loved her on my WiN 8 - 10 phones but buh bye. Another loss. I aint buying crap from these losers anymore except for O/S's. What a waste of a company and its resources.
  • The stock holders don't make these decisions.  The directors do, and they should know better.
  • Microsoft was becoming such a forward thinking, innovative and high quality consumer company. And then Nadella. He's turning MS into a train wreck, just like Carly Fiorina did with HP. At least HP are starting to bounce back to some degree now. However due to MS' type of business and its competitors, I can't see any future CEO able to turn it around. Going the way of IBM big time. Windows in the home will soon be history, in favour of whatever Google's OS will be.
  • We may lot like it but Windows is only 20% of Microsofts revenues. Xbox brings in more revenue than Windows. Office is the big money maker with Cloud hot on it's tail. 
  • Well said, Jez
  • When I first heard of Cortana, I had my doubts but was very excited. I tried to use her a lot on my HP notebook, but she was not very helpful. Now, a few weeks ago, I got an Echo. I didn't had any plans in buying Alexa, but now I really like having her with me. She is my waking up alarm and my news flash, my reminder, music box and she can make calls, which honestly I don't use much. Alexa is very useful and I can't wait for her to be on my Windows 10 and to have a app like Cortana has, where I can talk to her on my android. I just wish Cortana was on the same level. Either make her better or kick her out of Windows.
  • Ya, why is Cortana the only personal assistant that cares what country you live in?
  • Yeah right? Applel doesn't have that many more iphones in Norway than Windows PCs together. So their argument that the marked is too small is just to dumb. It's like they think im stupid enough to believe such nonsense.
  • Why worry, there will be Surface Cortana that saves all, right?
  • Heh best comment so far.
  • Glad u hv elevated ur thinking n now  can see the bigger picture that noone else could see, it was always part of the grand mobile strategy that MS is on track to execute. /S
  • Microsoft is just behind with most hot consumer products. Just take the GLAS thermostat, its got this awesome transparent screen and when you ask cortana a question like whats the weather tomorrow like, it wont show anything on the screen, rather it talks back to you through that tiny speaker it has. Microsoft is just not there with google & amazon!.. Amazon is just so far ahead. They are beating Microsoft at its own game (take a look at AWS).
  • They really need to improve the way how they develop.
  • Maybe they need a new leader. One who care!
  • Spot on. Article prompted me to ask Cortana why she was so useless and I got a “Words Fail Me”, probably the most spot on answer she’s ever managed. It’s bizarre, all those resources in Azure and Bing, AI Research, an engaged Xbox user base testbed and they can’t do this?
  • Wow, “words fail me”.   That IS a great answer.   One we see in comments here often.   Too funny.  
  • I had much hope in Cortana but thats gone now. How can they get more people to use it when its just on a few selected nations. I believe its too late now.
  • Spot on article and true.  As we were left in the dust by the Windows Phone platform some of us had to move on.  I installed Cortana on my Android device but was very limited to what it did.  And honestly Bixby is catching up with what Cortana can do.  I find myself using it more than Cortana now because Cortana doesn't have the active listening on Android unless you are in the app.  This alone is a reason I am not using it because of the safety matter.  I almost bought an invoke speaker over the holidays now I am skeptical on Cortana.  And everyone in my circle and tech community know how much I back MS but wasting money is something I am trying to do on items that have longevity and MS needs to step up and show they care about consumers and not just businesses and I work for a company that uses Windows primarilty...
  • Microsoft won't even try to win.. They have ZERO fight. Zero care to compete. They just take the easy road, play it too safe, and never take chances. What's the point if you're not going to give everything you do 1000000%?
    What's the plan for 2030? What are they gonna provide that people need?
  • Yeah... Cortana was never made available in New Zealand. In order to use that sweet voice-to-txt feature on Windows phone, I had to keep my phone in US region. Without Cortana, I could not even set quiet hours on the phone - super annoying! So I pretended we are 51st US state. On PC, Cortana kinda works with NZ region... as in, it can show on taskbar, but try asking anything and she will reply with "not available for your region"... so it mostly works as legacy search feature; but thanks for letting me install it at all, MS. So my gripe with MS. They start cool things but often just... drop them. No dedication. It is easy for them when majority of their income comes from volume licensing and services, but they are pretty much killing themselves in consumer world. Kin. Zune. Windows Phone(s). Cortana. Microsoft AR? Haven't heard much about it lately. It is almost like "we are sorted so we don't have to try hard. If it works, fine, if it doesn't, fine just as well". I think it is way wrong. More and more often, I think current leadership is doing worst than Steve Balmer-days leadership. They feel very... lifeless. Microsoft really needs their own Steve Jobs. Not a good programmer, they have plenty of these do do the work; an entrepreneur. Maybe in shape of Panos Panay?
  • Right on. The leadership doesn't care and have to og to fix Microsoft.
  • As Dan and Jason are espousing, the Massively Screwed-up dys-Functional Team needs to make lots of cuts.  Why not this one too? I wouldn't be surprised if the MSFT cut off its own head and put a tournequet on its toe as a response. If this stuff were written in a book, people would just call it fiction!
  • They would defend anything n also write how its a giod thing and how all this is part of a grand plan
  • Cortana has sucked every since WP 8. Once MS switched to the card UI, Cortana was broken. General questions don't get a voice reply. Bing opens up and you're like ,"Really?" Alexa, on the other responds by voice 90% of the time on my Firestick.
    Haven't heard Cortana speak a response, reminder, suggestions in months on W10 laptop
  • Too late...
  • haha oh man, these articles. MS isn't serious about anything on the consumer end. find a new company to support.
  • It's a race to the bottom between Cortana and Skype. Sad really. Even on pc she has stopped being able to track my fedex packages from email like she used to be able to and there's not even a way to manually enter information. Same with flights. She used to be able to find my flight info from emails and keep tabs on it automatically. Now I have to enter it in on a case-by-case basis. Granted some of this is because I'm on Android and not w10m, but we all know why.
  • The crazy part is that I found something that Cortana can do that Alexa cannot. You can ask Cortana (using the Invoke) next time you are at the supermarket to remind you of an item. It will remind you. I'm sure if you do the others through the app it would but not there speakers.
  • Amazon don't really want you buying things from supermarkets, they'd rather you order it on prime, hence they gain nothing by adding that feature
  • Excellent article.  I think it covers all of the looming topics around Cortana.
  • After Windows 10 was introduced, Russian-speaking users all around the CIS were eagerly waiting for Cortana to appear in a future update as then promised by Microsoft. But months passed, then a year, and it became clear that Microsoft pulled the plug on Russian Cortana and a very promising, (about 250 million people) fast growing market. Then, a few months ago, Russian #1 internet company Yandex decided to fill in the gap left by Microsoft and released a very promising voice assistant called Alisa (also available on iOS and Android). Alisa fits right where Cortana was supposed to be located in Windows 10, and works extremely well, with features and services being gradually added. Looks to me that by dropping Russian-speaking Cortana development, Microsoft lost the Russian voice assistant market to Yandex for good...
  • A digital assistant is the ultimate example of investing in an ecosystem rather than in a device.  And when I invest in an ecosystem, I need to be confident that the company behind that ecosystem is fully committed to that ecosystem and will not abandon it. When it comes to consumer products, MS has not earned that trust.  I spent hundreds of dollars purchasing apps for my old Windows Phone, only to have to re-purchase those apps from the Google Play store once MS abandoned Windows Phone.  I spent hundreds (or maybe thousands?) of dollars on music from Groove, only to have all of that mooted when MS decided I should just get a Spotify subscription instead.  I had a Kinect, and a Band, and so on.  These were great devices, and if I had purchased each one as "just a device," such that I would feel no pain moving to a different platform when I replaced it, that would have been fine.  But that's not how these things work.  When MS abandoned these product lines, it didn't just deprive me of the opportunity to buy the next generation of these products; MS deprived me of the ability to continue using the software and accessories I had purchased as part of the ecosystem those products formed. The investment in the ecosystem often costs more than the device itself.  A digital assistant is free, and the little speakers you place around the house are inexpensive.  The real investment is in my whole house audio system, my smart thermostats, my home theater system, my recipe index, and so many other parts of my life.  I absolutely refuse to design that entire "smart life" around a digital assistant from a company that has a track record of abandoning its users.  Purely from a software standpoint, I like Cortana much better than the other digital assistants.  There are a lot of things I don't like about Alexa.  But I can trust Amazon to be committed to Alexa in a way that I cannot trust MS.  So, my home is full of Echo devices.  And on an ongoing basis, my Smart Home purchases are driven by their compatibility with Alexa, not Cortana.  It's a shame, because I really like Cortana.  I just wish I could be confident in MS.
  • All these manufacturers don't seem to understand that I really don't care to talk to a computer.
  • Windows central was too late to realize that cortana was dead duck when ms launched it limited to US. I remember initially u guys gave ms a free pass. N MS is still livingvin the 80s 90s mindset when it had the monopoly n it could take its own sweet time to do whatever it wants. Not any more. U dont show the marketshare devs ll junk u
  • Well this wouldn't be the first time MSFT was first to invent and roll out an innovative product, only to not market, invest and partner with others to infiltrate the market...Cortana was the first AI rolled out to market...then MSFT ceded it to Siri and now Alexa and Google...MSFT has no consumer market focus...they only understand the corporate market...they will eventually become like IBM...irrelevant...
  • Hospice is on speed dial.
  • Well said Jez, well said. I have my thoughts on the matter however I've already said them so much that's become so repetitive at this point. My primary concern is that to me personally it feels like risk aversion in the guise of concentrated effort. I've been pointing out the lack of resources for Cortana's team for awhile now and I'm not the only one. Plus there are rumours that Microsoft want's to remove Cortana from the task bar,,,, if anything this resembles a decision solely based on telemetry data.
  • Cortana doesn't even work on my W10 FCU.  I ask the weather outside and it just closes the popup window after recognizing the question.
  • The 1990's anti trust case brought against MSFT effectively neutered and killed off any "dog eat dog" mentality that existed in the company. MSFT use to be a feared and respected company that when it entered into a market segment would cause that segment to supercharge itself and become highly competitive. Contrast that with the MSFT of today that walks in the shadow of Google, Apple and Facebook being careful not to step on toes whilst the mantra of the company enforced by its CEO is "walk quietly, slowly, change direction (according to political correctness) and most of all don't carry a stick when a marshmallow will do"
  • Digital assistants still have a long way to go. I am enjoying my Invoke, but c'mon, It's still early adopter stage. I think Dan and Jez are right in working through this debate with these articles. I worry that Dan has been a bit too apologist, but I also think he makes good points. Microsoft is a big enough company that they can throw money and resources at almost anything and muscle their way into the top 4. Nadella is right to focus the company and its resources, but I think we also wonder when Microsoft will start really flexing some muscle. I think Jez is right to call them out here. My personal opinion is that Apple and Google are in the same boat as Microsoft... "Oh, a voice interface to the internet"... But Alexa hooks up to the single most expansive commerce system in the world's largest economy. It's a smart move for the Seattle companies to ally, but the burden is on Microsoft to make this work. They need to get on it.
  • what is going on!!!! their phone and location services failed allegedly because a more dominant player made their tech too niche to gather more users to improve. But cortana is in windows and amazon isn't google scanning everybody's phone for data so!!! how does amazon beat them! Nadella better wake up or google and apple will take the AR revolution right form their hands. I'm losing faith in this company.
  • And satya won't say a f'n word which is the most frustrating piece of all this
  • Would it confort you if he does say anything? All he ever says are simply lies.
  • Simply put, I won't buy more Microsoft products except for desktop, laptop, or 2-in-1 until I get a better indication that they are really in again. Just bought a new battery for my 950XL and said no to the Invoke after Groove went bye-bye and Cortana came into question.
  • I bought a new battery for my 950.....but threw in the towel and bought a oneplus 5t in December.  Turns out it's true what they say...... Microsoft products and services run better on android. They really did abandon us on their own operating system :(
  • History is repeating itself as usual.  Microsoft is ignoring the consumer for the sake of corporate just like IBM did when Microsoft pushed them out of the Consumer market.  Now Google, Apple, and Amazon are doing it to them.  Young consumers become CEO's and Chairman of Boards.  People like what they know, and dislike what they don't know.  Those young consumers will take what they are comfortable with up the ladder with them.  People are extremely bad at learning from history and mistakes made before.
  • The speaker is great! Sounds great!
  • Agree... It almost feels like they completely stopped working on cortana.. I have 2 invokes that don't seem to have had any new features added in months. WTF.. It's not too late Microsoft, spend the damn cash and hire the developers. I've submitted a million suggestions, including features Alexa doesn't have. I haven't seen squat.
  • It kinda makes you miss Steve Ballmer, doesn't it?
  • Right to the point! Of course, Microsoon pathetic fanboys will say otherwise, that Cortana is the best, that MS rocks. This is the difference between you and other WC editors: you speak the reality, not dreaming of dead pink ponies like Jason or defending all the mediocre stuff from MS like Dan is doing. Cortana is DONE! MS has missed the smart home market and the smart speaker market, and it's no wonder. They can't get anything right as long as that bold moron is in charge! No matter what MS is saying about Cortana, who on earth, besides delusional fanbabies, can ever trust them. You've said it quite well: Actions speak louder than words! Now let the fanbabies come with the downvotes and their delusional opinions.
  • I'm a Microsoft fan but actually, well said. I have to agree that MS once again appear to be missing a growing market in smart homes, but unlike phone where they arguably arrived three years too late, in this instance they had all the pieces in place right on time to dominate, or at least have a significant stake in the smart home market, but in what has become very typical style, they've completely narked it up. By now cortana should be in every corner of the planet. It should be getting constant updates with new skills. It should be supporting dozens of home hub, smart speaker, thermostat, door bell ringing manufacturers. But it's not.  Because Microsoft still have zero concept of how to make stuff like this work.  It's actually quite painful to watch them fumble and fail. Like watching a plane fall out of the sky in super slow motion
  • A fan can criticize as well as praise when the company deserves. A fanboy is unable to see the reality and eats up whatever crap is being sold to. :) Being a fan is ok, I mean you have to like something :))
  • And behind android auto and apple auto too even though Microsoft was the first one to enter the market with Microsoft sync. Let's say good bye to that boat too. Wave people.
  • Same old game, need to prove something before its too late. Maybe it already had been too late. I don't think I am an Microsoft hater, but I dont understand the policy of microsoft. Maybe I am not smart enough to understand their end game! Best of luck MS!
  • Well said. The idea to use Cortana to start Alexa is, as you said, ludicrous.
    Do you remember those comercial mocking Siri, in which Siri response was "I can't do that" while Cortana could? I'm expecting something similar to appear, only that now Cortana would simply say "Try calling Alexa" or "Let me get Alexa for you since I can't do that but maybe she can".
  • The time for Microsoft to get serious about Cortana was BEFORE they said "**** it, be just put Alexa on everything." Hey, maybe they can help Amazon make antenna better like they helped Samsung with DeX while they were still trying to make Continuum a thing.
  • Cortana hasn't worked on my surface pro 3 or 4 for the better part of a year now. Typing in anything on the search bar pulls up results but won't let you open them.  After several hard resets and software refreshes I contacted MS support and took out an annual support subscription to see if they could fix it. The guy remotely took control of my laptop's and tried everything. Nothing worked. He then said my MS account was corrupted so closed it, moved my details and reset 10 years worth of my data. Didn't work. Pointless. Just pointless
  • Why have you trusted MS support, when those guys have ZERO knowledge? less even than searching on Google for a solution.
  • Don't know why you lot are worrying about Cortana, WP, Band, Groove, Windows or even the future of MS itself. All they need do is bring out a crypto-currency like Kodak are planning, the future is bright the Microsoft way......   I am sure the shareholders will be happy.
  • I get it, and I agree that Microsoft really needs to pull their head out of their ass when it comes to Cortana, but I do think they still have plenty of time. All of these smart device manufacturers are being idiots about the software side of their products. They keep releasing stuff that requires use of their app, and setting things up (and keeping them running properly) is painful for non-techie customers. Someone needs to develop a platform (IFTTT is in a good position to make a spin-off service for this) that all the difference manufacturers can plug into. Something where each device has an ID or QR code that lets it get immediately added to users' accounts. It sucks, admittedly, because this type of thing would cut into the manufacturers' profits by not getting the customers into their walled garden / ecosystem, but it's the best bet for consumers. The way I foresee this going is that a bunch of non-leading brand manufacturers (so the competitors to Phillips Hue, Amazon, etc) would gang up to develop a platform that can be built into these new products without costing anyone anything, with an open API that developers can add to their controlling apps. For example, Microsoft, GE, IFTTT, and Honeywell could all come together to make a free platform that works with any assistant without having to have the GE smartlight app and the Honeywell smart thermostat app to work. One can dream...
  • Late to party but yeah. Why on earth did MS release Cortana in US only back in the days when WP had meaningful marketshare pretty much everywhere EXCEPT for US is completely and utterly beyond me. It's such a bad oversight I can't even articulate it in words. Having to switch my phone to US just because I happen to not live in that one country they made it available to? Why? nobody else is forcing me to do that. Screwing up so royally is what brought MS in this place.
  • Google assistant was everywhere at CES, Cortana was just on one the thermostat
  • All I know is, 3 years ago, I was rocking my Lumia 930 with Cortana, voice texting in my car and loving what seemed to be coming down the road. 3 Years on, I'm 12 months on an android flagship, have just uninstalled cortana to use Google Assistant, have removed arrow launcher and win10 launcher, have stopped using bing and in favour of baked in google integration, switched to spotify, just moved from the flakey outlook app to android mail, moved the family onto google calandar and bought my son an Amazon Echo for christmas. I think I'll be cancelling 365 in the coming weeks, re-installing my old Office 2013 on the desktop as back up and switching to google docs.   I've moved my 129Gb of music off onedrive and store it for free on google music. That leave my photos/video to deal with, which won't be hard to place elsewhere. I didn't want to do any of this, but the market, and MS, led me down the path. What I have now is seemless in comparison. I loathed google (and apple), but as a consumer, ecosystem support is crucial. There is no way back for me based on vague promises. Unless MS deliver a game changer, that can bring together functionality to rival app stores, google search, voice assistance, global payment support and house integration, the consumer space is gone.  
  • Well said sir!  They make almost industry leading technology 4 years ago and then do nothing to bring it to mass market. That appears to be a common issue. Hololens is likely the next area where someone else will become #1 too.  Of course with Cortana, giving up on mobile destroyed the ability for Microsoft to grow it.  Something else of note: iOS App Store top 30 apps. About 10 are Googles. For drive, photos etc. None are Microsoft’s. I think that shows how Android is influencing how people work and what company they see daily, even when people use or move to another OS. 
  • I bet Microsoft hasn't worked many hours to make Cortina a Norwegian language pack! And if they start now, it will take 3 years for it to come out. I think it's better to wait for the #SurfaceCortana. 
  • Everything aside from music recognition for me still works great on my phone and HK speaker. I still get package updates, flight updates, appointment reminders, etc. Sure MS could be better about things. But as it stands, Cortana still works great. I'll admit I have nothing else to compare it to as I've never used Alexa. Also as you all know MS isn't shy about telling us or their partners that they are killing a service or product. If Cortana was dead or dying, they'd say so I think.
  • More than half of MS's non-Enterprise services/products were sent to the grave as soon as they gave up on mobile.  This should be a suprise to nobody who listens to the tech heartbeat.
  • Microsoft teases cool product, gets people exicted about it, releases it...then inexplicably bails on it and lets it fade in obscurity. Wow, what a shock. I think that's their new mission statement.
  • cortana is not dead, it's just filing a name change..
  • Alexa has 70% market share on home devices, Google has 50% market share on mobile, Cortana is doomed, everyone at MS knows this, they cant compete on mobile as they threw thier platform away and Cortana is ***** on Android (at least for me, its unusable) Siri is pretty much dead too but they have the advantage of it being on every iphone. They can call it whatever they want, its dead.
  • ... and at least on the face of it, Microsoft has been doing a whole load of nothing to showcase and develop _________ as a platform.... This should be Microsoft's motto. Fill in the blank...Cortana, Mobile #StillPissedAboutMobile
  • Seriously though, Microsoft really needs to up their game on Cortana. It's Cortana app on Android is nearly as good as it could be. I would like to see them improve it to a point where it is nearly as good if not better than on Windows Phone.
  • Cortana on my Android phone does more than she does on my Surface Pro. At least, on my phone I can get a summary of my day. On PC, , all I can get is the opportunity to add things to lists. I can't even look at the lists.  Stupid!  I have recently heard from an MS developer, though, that Cortana may soon become the "broker" of information between ALL MS apps she was promised to be. Which is great...if it's not too late...
  • Before it's too late? Oh honey, that ship has sailed a long time ago. Microsoft's utter failure in the consumer market with Windows Mobile devices (6, 8, 10) and the Band with little to no advertising doesn't show me how well they can market Cortana. Yes it's great she's included with Windows 10, not everyone uses her to her full potential. These in home speakers should have been on the market a year ago. Not now. While I'm a huge MS fan, I've had every version of windows phone/mobile and a band 2. I've lost all hope. Just like the Zune, it's too little too late. :(
  • Just wait for the #SurfaceCortana to come out. It will save the day, and you all will be ashamed. #SurfaceCortana will revolutionize the whole world. I love #SurfaceCortana.
  • Go #SurfaceCortana Go!