Cortana started off looking like Microsoft’s answer to Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. These days it’s looking… a lot less useful.

Microsoft has announced a few new scheduling and task management features for voice and keyboard users… but the company has also revealed that it’s pulling the plug on a whole bunch of other features.

Goodbye music controls, smart home gadget controls, and support for all third-party skills (meaning any function that wasn’t developed by Microsoft itself).

The move is just the latest in a series of efforts by Microsoft to re-position Cortana.

In 2018 the company made it possible to use Cortana to talk to Amazon’s more popular Alexa voice assistant. In early 2019, the company split Cortana from the Windows 10 search feature. And Microsoft recently pulled the plug on its standalone Cortana mobile apps for Android and iOS.

It feels like it could just be a matter of time before the company throws in the towel on Cortana altogether. Or maybe it’ll live on as a simple tool for interacting with Windows by voice or natural language text chat.

For now the company says you can use it as a productivity aid to do things like check your calendar, set reminders, or add items to your Microsoft To Do list with questions and comments like:

  • “What’s next on my calendar?”
  • “Remind me to send the ‘weekly report’ every Friday at 2pm.”
  • “Add ‘status report’ to my task list.”

So I guess that’s new… or something. Really? You couldn’t do those things before? OK.

Anyway, there are two more changes coming:

  • You’ll need to be logged into a work, school, or Microsoft account to use Cortana in the future.
  • Microsoft is ending support for Cortana on older versions of Windows that have passed their end-of-service dates.

In other words, one way to avoid Cortana altogether is to use a version of Windows 10 that’s more than 18 months old (although you may also miss out on some key bug fixes and security updates if you do that).

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    1. Weird thing is, that it wasn’t too bad when it first released. Kind of like Siri back in 2011-2013.

      Well Siri got more advanced, and then we got Alexa, and now Google Assistant… whilst Cortana fell behind, despite having billions of dollars behind it. And MS has lost its vision. They half-assed WindowsRT/ARM, and it could be on the chopping block in a couple years. Windows10 Mobile despite being pretty good was killed. Other internal projects aren’t getting out of the concept and prototype stages. Heck, even the prototype Microsoft Courier has lost its Windows Operating System instead for Google’s AndroidOS, and being shipped as the “Surface Duo”.

      It looks like the only one left is Apple, who create a product and stick behind it. Despite its shortcomings, they still haven’t given up on the Apple TV. And I think that’s the attitude which is missing from both Google and Microsoft. The public have had enough of this “throw it at the wall, see what sticks” strategy.

      1. You know they’re still making the surface neo right? That (and those 17 other concept machine from CES) is more of a Courier than the phone.
        Although otherwise that’s not totally an inaccurate assessment.