Microsoft to remove Cortana from Microsoft Launcher on Android (updated)

Cortana inMicrosoft Launcher
Cortana inMicrosoft Launcher (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Cortana inside the Microsoft Launcher is being removed if not in the US.
  • Users will not be able to set it as the default assistant on Android.

Updated November 7 2019: I'm told that the removal of Cortana inside the Microsoft Launcher will be for users outside the United States. Those in the US will still be able to use Cortana through the Microsoft Launcher. So while not all bad news, this will be a regression in supporting Cortana outside the US.

Users of Cortana have been spoiled for choice when it comes to accessing the digital assistant on Android. Today, you can do so via the dedicated Cortana app, or via integration through the Microsoft Launcher. But according to sources familiar to the matter, Microsoft may be removing at least one of those entry points very soon.

I'm hearing that in the next couple of months, Microsoft will begin phasing out Cortana integration inside the Microsoft Launcher. Why? Because it no longer aligns with what Cortana is on mobile. Microsoft is pivoting Cortana away from being a single access point on a device and wants the assistant to work for you more contextually inside Microsoft 365 productivity apps such as Outlook, Skype, and Teams.

I don't know if this means the dedicated Cortana app on iOS and Android is going away as well. I've not heard anything about this, but I wouldn't be surprised if the dedicated apps follow suit. I do know that Microsoft is building a dedicated app for Surface Headphones and Surface Earbuds set up and configuration, which would alleviate the need for Cortana when setting up those devices.

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The one outlier here is Cortana on Windows 10. Microsoft is in the middle of building out a brand new dedicated Cortana app on Windows 10. Perhaps this is because Windows still needs a default assistant of sorts, but it's clear that Microsoft doesn't expect people to use Cortana like people use digital assistants on their phones.

If the dedicated app goes away along with the Microsoft Launcher integration, that does mean that fans of Cortana will no longer be able to use it as their assistant of choice on mobile. That's a real shame, but considering so few people use it already, it won't be something that most people will miss.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

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

  • Seems Microsoft just keeps finding way to further alienate those of us who want to use their products. I am having to switch to an android phone from my Windows phone, which I still love, was looking forward to using Cortana from the launcher. I want to keep liking you MS, but you are making it very very difficult.
    EDIT: forgot to add...You A-holes.
  • You haven't been paying attention or are purposefully ignoring reality. Cortana has been dead for years now, it has been more than obvious. Nadella even warned you earlier this year.
  • Dude, you should read the article you cite. It's about the smart speaker market: "According to reports, Nadella said that Microsoft saw what was happening in the smart speaker market and realized that it would always be an also-ran, just as it was in smartphones. But this time, the software giant felt that it could still be a major player, just behind the scenes. And that strategy actually makes some sense, if belatedly: Cortana now powers many lower-tier digital assistants, including those from carmaker BMW."
  • "Behind the scenes". That means it becomes invisible, the brand dies, the service dies. The software becomes the backbone of other services.
  • Yeah, but that's for smart speakers. The article is about smart speakers. MS still needs voice assistant AI for productivity - that's not something they can just get rid of - and they put out a video recently showing how Cortana would work with Outlook on mobile. It's not about ordering diapers and asking about the weather or screaming into your phone on the train because you thought that's what all the kids these days do. It's about managing emails and rearranging your schedule and booking meeting rooms. Boring, I know - but actually useful. As for smart speakers ... is anyone other than Amazon making any money in that market? (Is anyone, including Amazon, making money in that market?) And for consumer voice assistants, is there any reliable data on their usage? How much money is this stuff making for Google and Apple and Amazon, anyway? Recent evolution has been minimal.
  • Cortana, the brand and standalone assistant, will be dead by this time next year. Voice activition will just be a feature of some Microsoft services.
  • Don't feed the troll. He's been an annoyance for years.
  • why is there no way to get rid of him? why can't we block him?
  • you should stop listen to thurrot, for some reasons he hates MS
  • But he loves to hate them.
  • I hear you. I switched this year and I'm happy having Cortana in the Microsoft Launcher. Even with how Cortana works for my country, with reduced functionality, I like it a lot. I even have a dedicated button for her. So it makes no sense at all to remove her.
  • Boo to that. Android is bearable largely because I can switch away from Google services. I like that I can run a virtual assistant on the device that's not backed by a company that is either trying to sell me crap (Amazon) or sell my data (Google).
  • Except that you really can't. Cortana on an Android device can't do a tenth of what it can do on a Windows phone.
  • And Cortana can't do a tenth of what Google Assistant can.
  • But it gets voice to text much better, at least in my experience. Google and Alexa are horrible at this, even now
  • certainly does. and Siri is absolutely hopeless for me.
  • When you ignore what Microsoft says and look at what they do, you begin to see a pattern of surrender and an unwillingness to fight. What Satya Nadella is doing to Microsoft is literally the definition of "managed decline". Very sad as I have always loved Microsoft and thought their philosophical approach to tech made the most sense, but they are almost unrecognisable to me now.
  • That's a ridiculous narrative not based in reality.
  • Lol it's insane. It's what some right wing nuts used to say about Obama foreign policy. These days they prefer chaotic decline under the current president.
  • You just made me sign in, I didn't even know I had an account. What is different with Obama and Trump's policies? Not much, so it looks like it is you who seem like the left wing nut job who says about Trump's foreign policy and preferred the chaotic decline under the former president. Obama set a new level for potential world conflict. Now that we are all used to it, Trump does not shock many. Besides media throws shade on Trump every day for the same things they ignored when Obama was POTUS. Sent from a Centrist
  • You're right: Obama and Trump foreign policies are the same, and you're a capital-C Centrist, and I'm the left-wing nut job.
  • No I'm a right wing nut job 😂
  • What is "insane" is defending blithely Obama's bowing to tyrants, abandoning our allies, drawing lines in the sand that you have no intention of enforcing, allowing the "JV" team to swallow up territory bought with our blood and treasure, arming the cartels, opening our borders, ignoring Hamas's drug-running here, and green-lighting Iran's nuclear genocide program. Trump may be a savage, but his foreign policy is clear: America first.
  • I get where you are coming from but by most assessments Microsoft has been on the rise under Satya. He has driven some very important and much needed structural / cultural changes within Microsoft organization. And crucial to long term success Microsoft has shifted rapidly & successfully from traditional platforms to cloud/services. Stock price & cloud market share reflect this. That all said, Satya Nadella knows nothing about the consumer space. He does not possess those chops or ambitions .. he is a enterpisey guy if you look at all the rolls he previously held.
  • Agreed. He is definitely not a consumer guy. That's why Cortana is no longer used for Xbox and for consumer PC's. We need a consumer champion to run MS consumer separate from enterprise.
  • I heard Nadella is cancelling all apps and games for Xbox except PowerPoint.
  • And Skype for Business/Teams
  • "I heard Nadella is canelling all apps and games for Xbox except PowerPoint."
    Haha, that's funny... 😂 😯 🤔 🙄
  • I have to disagree with you on this one. If you look at Microsoft from the past what customer products apart from gaming have been a massive success? Everything Microsoft have had success in is business. For me loved Windows mobile and also perfected cortana to others as well as zune but general public did not. The surface is selling very well but again its not really general public picking them up its businesses. Microsoft know they can put there services on other platforms and still do well. Look how many downloads the Microsoft apps have had and you can see that. One reason why they are making the surface neo is to show how android can be used in a Microsoft environment but this will not be a phone to go against the iPhone and Note ect its aimed at businesses use.
  • @James Allatt "One reason why they are making the surface neo is to show how android can be used in a Microsoft environment but this will not be a phone to go against the iPhone and Note ect its aimed at businesses use" I think you mean the Surface Duo. You make valid points though.
  • Seems like the appropriate move considering we know they're manufacturing their own Android device. Much like how it will be on Windows 10, it makes sense to have it as a separate app that you can update independently. This is how Google Assistant is on Android.
  • ok but they already have a separate app
    Just let me launch it via launcher with a hardware shortcut or someshit
  • Yeah, I know which is why it being in Launcher is redundant.
  • But Microsoft refuses to do anything about making Cortana operate at a much deeper level. That's why Cortana is so fantastic on Windows phones...and abysmal on Android or iOS. I don't care what kind of goofy Office 365 garbage they have going on, you simply can't do with Cortana on other platforms (and soon, even on Windows) what I need done.
  • It is dead and has been dead for years. It is time to switch ecosystems as Microsoft is slowly removing their consumer services.
  • Back to bashing MS I see? You really need a new hobby. Tennis maybe?
  • Am I not right? Their consumer ecosystem is dwindling, they don't have much left at this point. Office is about all they have left and isn't really a consumer service. It is only a matter of time before they drop the name Cortana and it just becomes voice activation for some Office apps.
  • Was he ever away? His daily life is MS bashing.
  • Here, use our product! A few years later... Stop using our product!
  • Like clockwork lmao
  • Lol, looks like the windows central guys are having to eat some crow now. After all their snarky remarks about the uninformed commenters saying Cotana was dead or dying, it appears they have been proven incorrect. For the record, myself and others who said Cortana was dying were not claiming that MS was getting out of the AI game or something silly like that. We were simply saying that the front-end personified digital assistant was going away. This announcement only strengthens that arguement. I have no doubt that MS will continue to add AI features to the Office Suite and other 365 apps. However, I dont thing making intelligent suggestions to the user or automating common tasks needs to be offered through a named AI entity. Eventually Cortana will fade away completely and these features will just become integrated into the apps themselves. No need for a separate digital assistant.
  • But only a couple months ago MS did that 30-something turn voice demo for productivity, remember? It doesn't make sense for Cortana as the AI front-end go to away, and the decision to remove Cortana from Launcher isn't really the same thing as having that service go away. You still need a voice assistant as part of a productivity-focussed AI strategy, even if the voice assistant takes a back seat in some contexts.
  • Yeah, voice interaction is about the only reason I see for keeping "Cortana" (voice will be used much less in the business arena than the consumer market, however). I wouldnt be surprised if they moved to something like "hey microsoft" or "hey outlook" (or whatever application the user wanted to interact with).
  • Actually that (changing trigger names or whatever they are called) wouldn't surprise me either. It might depend on the context. But I wonder if you're right that voice will be used less in the business market. And exactly how much is it used in the consumer market, anyway? Voice assistants haven't evolved much in the past few years. Do they really make their companies money? I've personally never found them very useful.
  • Does anyone honestly use digital assistants for anything other than basic needs, like GPS navigation, or making calls via headset?
  • Yes. Alexa and Google Home are widespread. Home automation is huge. Somebody must be using them, people keep buying them.
  • I use Cortana to control smart home stuff all the time, especially if I don't have my phone nearby. If they kill it off, I guess I'll just use Alexa. But I don't gaf about the thousands of useless skills
  • Past commentors (maybe not you specifically) WERE definitely saying cortana was dead/dying and not just in the front end way. All I've ever heard from WC was them saying what you're saying now in your post, so I'm confused about your comment.
  • No no, it'll be like the snarky stuff about UWP. 'It's not dead, you're all wrong, it's just morphing into something else. See there's a line of UWP code in this App here Dumb-Asses!'. This will be the same stuff from the snark-twins.
  • I have shied away fro using Google's Assistant, and even Alexa. Now WHT am I stuck with? I distrust Google with personal queries because then they'll serve up ads, which I don't want. Nadella is a disaster.
  • Microsoft also has an ad business. They will serve you ads when they can.
  • Soooo, basically going the way of the paperclip guy... Got it
  • You beat me to it.
  • Ah, Cortana, the new face of Clippy.
  • The completely dumb and confusing idea of having Cortana - and, mind you, two different Cortana experiences - on two different apps is going away. Great.
  • If they are trying to get away from a single point of access, WTF don't they remove the stand alone app. It seems having it integrated with the launcher is the better choice. Then again, this is what they did on PC so now it makes sense.
  • This would be so much easier to swallow if they just let us type to Cortana again on PC. Feels like they're continually trying to get me not to use Cortana at all.
  • Yeah. At work I don't want to just blurt out things to cortana, especially reminders. BUT I do still want to type. So now I basically have to just use to-do instead, which I think is what they want anyway.
  • You can still type in Cortana. But I MUCH prefer using voice. Hands-free mode is always my first choice.
  • That functionality is coming to future versions of W10, according to reporting here at WC. But yeah, it was dumb to take it away in the first place.
  • They're leaving the consumer market to Amazon and Google. MS had an opportunity there but that ship has long since sailed. It's only a matter of time until we can set Alexa to default on the Invoke.
  • The Invoke speaker is dead and gone. It would take software updates to use Alexa on it, and that is never going to happen.
  • I think that is more of Harmon-Kardon's call but I could see them making a new unit instead of updating the Invoke.
  • Just made several free Skype call today with Cortana voice assistant., works perfect for me.
  • May as well at this point. They have been making cortana worse and worse on pc and mobile. I couldn't even ask for directions the other day.
  • No Cortana around here, so no great loss and quite expected...
  • One less place to disable it.
  • So what will they default to on Surface Duo?
  • Was just wondering the same thing.. 🤔
  • Google Assistant. I didn't need to type more, but the comment system forced me to.
  • Maybe Alexa since Alexa works on windows 10 pc?
  • Now I need Google assistant to work with Microsoft To-Do
  • And with every other Microsoft service. See? It makes more sense to KEEP Cortana. And fix her.
  • And if you don't use Office 365 or related products? They're basically removing any pretense of support (again) for customers. Google assistant is unacceptable. Bixby is unacceptable. Siri is unacceptable. And Cortana is soon to be inaccessible. So, what's the point? Microsoft continues to half-bake everything and make it difficult to impossible to continue to support them. I just don't understand this mindset. Man, I wish someone would fire Satya.
  • I second your suggestion to FIRE SATYA NOW.
  • Yeah, let's fire the guy that made the company billions of money, that's a genius idea. As an aside, what do you use Cortana for?
  • You're right, I don't think they need to fire Satya. But he definitely needs to hire an Assistant to CEO that knows a thing or two about the consumer market for advice.
  • You havr just spoken my entire mind on this. I have a Galaxy Note 8 which replaced my beloved 950xl, and I have NEVER used Bixby, Google, or Alexa, because they are all designed, specifically, to data mine me, for ads, and/or in the case of Bixby, sending my data to a Parent Corporation, located in a Country, outside the US, with Laws I dont agree with, for Data Privacy, and Corporate Data Usage Policy I DEFINITELY, dont agree with. This seems arbitrary, for a company that is releasing boutique ads, through a Program designed to serve niche populations, Microsoft Garage. Want to get rid of an app I use DAILY, but SMS Organizer is utter trash, and highly localized for Indian Users, and Third World Telephony infrastructures, that dont serve your cash cow business users, all all? Launcher camr from the SAME Microsoft Garage Program. Leave it alone! Cortana is valuable to many users as we are all attesting to, here. Learn from the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich debacle. Give us what we want!
  • I remember when Arrow changed to Microsoft Launcher, and I knew then it was only a matter of time before they started messing it up.. Even leaving feedback on "beta community" is a complete waste of time.. They changed the font, people didn't like it and we're basically told to like it or lump it. The only reason I use it is because it is still better than the terrible One UI ( my opinion) that Samsung has given us.. I have high hopes for the Duo, but I'll be wary... Removing Groove music app off Android annoyed me, but yet the sports app is still there without an update in God knows how long.. I just don't get it...
  • This is BS. What, they will be forcing people to buy their headphones to use Cortana? Makes no sense.
  • Not exactly. But, if they are going to be selling headphones, it makes sense to have their own assistant on it. This is the way high end headphones seem to be going.
  • They will make the headphones work with Assistant or Alexa like the Bose do.
  • For now, at least, it seems that Microsoft will be updating the Cortana app and adding other features in the near future. Incorporate reading emails and such. So, it's not a complete loss. We just have to get use to the idea that Cortana's focus will be on being more of an assistant for business than consumer.
  • Not a surprise. Have been waiting over 7 years foe Cortana support. Still couldn't manage expanding language support. I think that has been the achilles heel of of the project from day 1.
    What I find annoyingly toxic is the rate at which they are turn over servicing projects. It's difficult to get any grasp which services last (even good ones, but microsoft fails to follow-through.. Groove etc) and thus makes it hard to trust Microsoft services... A vicious cycle.
  • It is hard to expand languages when you are failing to get users in the current ones.
  • I believe the AI portion behind the scenes is rock solid and going no where. Is it that hard to maintaining a vocal interface? I guess I just don't understand the cost of keeping the voice interface alive. Why not open source Cortana's voice interface in GitHub like Microsoft has with so many of it's other line? Surely there would be plenty of enthusiast that would keep it alive. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying the effort.
  • I loved Cortana but it's been buggy, very buggy on Android for a year or more.
  • After 6 years waiting, despite being in a western country that speaks english, any news about Cortana is just looked at out of curiosity these days, pretty much for anyone outside the US. Frankly, just seems they're turning it into Clippy 2.0. Well, they are for now, until they fluff about with it and change their minds yet again.
  • just feels like a rudderless ship....
  • No, the rudder is fine. Its just going in a direction you don't like. All the while making billions of dollars, instead of losing billions of dollars on unpopular products. Microsoft is actually in better shape now than at any time in the last 10 years. You don't achieve that by being "rudderless". You get there by actually knowing what you are doing. By making the correct business (not emotional) decisions. By getting out of the phone business where you lost $10 billion over 5 years. By winning $10 billion U.S. government outsourcing contracts. "Rudderless" would have been continuing to lose billions on phones that no one wanted to buy. "Rudderless" would be not even bidding on the $10 billion U.S. government outsourcing contract, because you are too busy wasting time and money on your "loyal phone/groove/books/movies/Cortana customers".
  • That's too bad. I use Cortana on my android phone. Guess I'm in the minority
  • I'm right there with you. Use it daily.
  • Yes, I use it a lot too Josh.
  • It wasn't too long ago that I was ready to leave Windows for Linux, and if it weren't for the vast number of PC games that I own, I would have. Windows 8.x/10/Mobile changed all that. On a lark, I spent $60 on a Lumia 640, and it was great. And that led to the Lumia 950 XL. Windows everywhere, and Cortana was awesome (especially in the car). After seeing Microsoft mutilate 8.x's Start and touch experience and abandon Windows Phone (once with 10 Mobile and now with Duo), Groove, and Cortana, I'm done. You can't keep abandoning your most loyal customers and expect them to stay around.
  • Except that, Microsoft is NOT "abandoning your most loyal customers". Their MOST LOYAL customers are businesses. Always have been. MS knows where it makes money. Hence their current stock price, etc. A few million Windows phone/Groove/Zune/whatever fans can easily be forgotten. I realize that, for many here, it sucks. But this is the reality.
  • So begins my mission to completely assassinate the characters of Alexa and the geGool Asses
  • This might be a move to thin out the launcher which is gaining popularity as Cortana on Android i has limited functionality. Yet another clever move, unappealing to consumers. The irony is that Microsoft always been talking like 'The future is mobile' and the noble cross platform strategy, but will it cost that much if Cortana gets another endpoint outside Microsoft platforms? Shaping Cortana to a productive assistant seems like a boon for prosumers, but does that necessarily mean they have to cut down an endpoint which has the potential to market her very well, considering the download stats of the launcher itself. They should have been working on removing the disparities (in Cortana) within US and the rest of the world rather.
  • I'm on a pixel 2xl I can't get Cortana to work in the same way as ok google. I gave up on Cortana as I had to manually press's a button as it were to activate. Rather than voice command as I used to do on my windows phone . Was I doing something wrong ?
  • If you have the Launcher, you can set it to listen for "Hey Cortana." It's in beta, though, but works really well, aside from the fact that your screen needs to be active and your device unlocked for it to work (not really a huge issue, but still). Unfortunately, the regular Cortana app does not have "Hey Cortana" functionality yet, but I always thought they were using the Launcher to beta test the integration, and eventually the standalone app would be the one you'd need to download. Hopefully they'll continue to support the standalone app and I'll end up being correct.
  • I hope your right!!
  • Not a miss for me. In my country, Google Assistant (GA) can understand me in my own language. Heck, even in some of our slang terms. A plus point where Cortana can't even understand me in my formal language. So I only use GA from day to day basis. It will sadden those who actually use it though.
  • Microsoft giveth... Microsoft taketh away...
  • The smartphone is the center of everything.. Once they stopped that, they stopped a lot.
  • ISTR on the non-phone devices, like tablets, your only option to use Cortana is through the Launcher -- standalone app is marked as incompatible.
  • The Cortana App is unavailble in India since months now. Since I have it installed, I have it available, but in the play store, it's no more available.
  • So long as an assistant offers either a tyoing of voice interface, I'm okay (but the voice part will be locked down.) If it is all voice, I'll shut it down. I keep Siri shut down on my iPhones.
  • I don't get it... is like if the best Meat or grills producer just got tired of being the best in the business and then started selling seasoning herbs for other producers.... the only thing they are doing is giving better ways to improve the competition. maybe it will give them some profit at the short term, but in long term they are becoming just a sidekick.
  • To me the issue is communication. Even if we assume Microsoft has logical strategy for Cortana (or anything really), they never communicate it. So when you hear "Microsoft is ending 'x'" they never say, "here's the new direction and how we are improving our services". It's just gone and people are left wondering if anyone in charge has game play, or if they just show up each day and make it up randomly. Like a daily coin toss where heads equals "continue to support" and tails equals "just end support without explaining anything".
  • I rather they leave it then have no choice to but to use Bixby or Google Assistant.
    I am glad that I will see Cortana more in my workflow but I would still like to easily connect with Cortana for quick request and calendar updates when I don't have time to look.
    To be honest, assistants aren't used that often and Cortana is one of the lower ones but they could have intergrated better in Android. Yet instead Cortana will be integrated more into Microsoft's Office apps and helping users through their workflow.
  • This really stinks (I'm being nice).
    Really, how much would it cost Microsoft to keep Cortana?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Cortana has now been put in a dungeon twenty thousand leagues under the sea and there is now a bouncer called CortEX Project diverting escort queries.
  • Cortana location reminders actually work for me unlike Google's location reminders that are a complete joke (I had one pop up like month after setting it up and not working at all). On the other hand the app as a whole is unbelievably slow and clunky and setting home or work as location in aforementioned location reminders is a pain since they don't appear as option for like 30 seconds.
  • Bad thing. I cannot use the app on my Android phone since my region is not supported.
  • "this will be a regression in supporting Cortana outside the US" USA only. Regular Microsoft.