Microsoft's biggest problem around its Cortana digital assistant is perception. The Siri and Google Now competitor has a rich feature set, and while the focus is shifting from pure app-like experience to a more nuanced smart-OS, there's a lot of potential.

One area that is not great for Cortana — besides restricted regional availability — is knowing what Cortana can and cannot do, or more specifically, if any new features have been added. Amazon has proven that this problem is solvable, without much effort.

A simple email

Microsoft has a decent web presence for Cortana . Head to Microsoft.com/cortana, and you are directed to a page with tips on getting organized, working across devices, details on "her" valuable skills, and more.

Additionally, users can find more much for Cortana to do by clicking the search area in Windows 10 or head to the Notebook. There you can find a deep link to more skills, information on the connected home, productivity, family, connected services, and lifestyle details.

All these bits are good and a step up from where Cortana was just two years ago. Much more work is going into Cortana behind the scenes, especially with ex-Acommpli founder Javier Soltero taking over the development of the assistant in March.

But the lowest hanging fruit is still missing: a simple email or message about new enhancements.

While opting into more emails is not always wanted, Amazon's regular Alexa updates are very useful. A simple message titled "What's new with Alexa?" hits users' inboxes regularly, and with it comes a list of things to try and another area with "most requested." None of this is groundbreaking or amazing. But a simple email that tells users what new commands they can use with Cortana, what new skills have been added, some examples of popular commands for Cortana, and even some new features they are working on would be extremely beneficial.

Amazon's newsletter about Alexa is simple and brilliant.

For PC users, some of this may be of less interest, but for those who have the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker (and future Cortana-connected smart home gear), such updates are essential. I've been told that Microsoft does similar for those in the Cortana beta testing group. Occasional emails inform them that a new feature like "remove lists or list items using voice" is now available with a bunch of example commands ("Cortana, add New York to my travel list") give concrete use cases for users to try.

Microsoft could just as easily put in a 'What's new' area under Cortana's Notebook. My hunch is such a log may not be updated all that often, but why not let users see a running changelog of new features?

Discovery is hard with digital assistants

This all goes back to discovery with digital assistants – any and all of them. Amazon boasts thousands of skills, but learning what is available, and the keywords needed to activate them, is no easy task.

The discovery problem with assistants will slowly go away as artificial intelligence (AI) improves over the coming years, but for now, this semi-sophisticated voice activation and trigger system is more brute force than nuance.

Because these systems aren't very intelligent, Microsoft is going to have to do a lot of spoon feeding to help users make the most of Cortana. By providing a simple, occasional email listing new skills, current popular features users are leveraging, and maybe even what's coming next, people may feel less concern over the future of Microsoft's assistant. And it would be a subtle reminder to try it out.

Pushing aside intrusive emails that some may see as spam, Microsoft could keep a changelog or what's-new list in Cortana. Imagine just asking what Cortana "Hey Cortana, what's new for you?" or "Hey Cortana, what can you do now?".

Most of this seems like basic software development and communication 101, but Microsoft sometimes needs a kick. Well, here's a punt, Microsoft.

Latest And Best Prime Day Deals

The Ring Alarm security system is reaching new low prices for Prime Day
Ring Alarm home security systems

Various configurations of the Ring Alarm are discounted to their best prices yet exclusively for Prime members at Amazon through Tuesday night to help keep your home secure.

The Sonos Beam Prime Day deal includes a $40 discount and 2 $50 Amazon gift cards
The Sonos Beam Prime Day deal includes a $40 discount and $100 in Amazon gift cards
$359.00 $499.00 Save $140

That's just so much savings in one deal. You'll have to wait for the physical gift cards, but that's basically $100 to spend however you want.

Prime Day dropped this PlayStation 4 console bundle to just $250
PlayStation 4 Slim 1TB console with Marvel's Spider-Man and Horizon Zero Dawn
$249.99 $359.98 Save $110

This deal on the PlayStation 4 Slim console saves you $50 off its regular price while also including Marvel's Spider-Man and Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition for free. You'll just need an Amazon Prime membership to snag it.

The newest device in the Echo family, the Show 5, is now down to just $50
Echo Show 5
$49.99 $89.99 Save $40

It's only been on the market since May, but it hasn't escaped the Prime Day price cuts.

Amp up your home security with these huge Prime Day discount on nearly all Ring products
Save on Ring products today only

Whether you need a video doorbell, whole home alarm system, or some lights to brighten a dark area, Amazon has it all marked down today!

These huge price drops on the entire Galaxy S10 lineup might be one of the best Prime Day phone deals we'll see
Samsung Galaxy S10 128GB unlocked Prism Black Android smartphone
$599.99 $900.00 Save $300

We love the Galaxy S10, and we love deals. This combines two of our true loves in one!

Scour Amazon Warehouse's deals to save an extra 20% on tech and more through Prime Day
Extra 20% off Amazon Warehouse

Amazon Warehouse sells a myriad of items in varying conditions, from refurbished to open-box, used, warehouse-damaged, and more. It's a great place to snag a deal, and now Prime members can save an extra 20% off select items at checkout.

There's never been a better deal on the Ring Video Doorbell 2 than this pre-Prime Day offer
Ring Video Doorbell 2 (Certified Refurbished)
$89.99 $169.99 Save $80

Amazon is taking $80 off the certified refurbished Ring Video Doorbell 2, which lets you see and speak with visitors at your front door no matter where you are in the world.

More Prime Day Deals