Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant software isn’t exactly dead, but it’s not exactly living its best life either. Earlier this year Microsoft announced that it was killing off some key features including support for third-party Cortana skills and support for using Cortana to control music playback and smart home devices.
Now Microsoft has confirmed that all third-party Cortana skills will stop working on September 7, 2020. And early next year the company will also stop supporting its Cortana mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Cortana will also stop working on the Harman Kardon Invoke, which is the only smart speaker ever to support Cortana in the first place.
Support for the Invoke has been buggy for a while anyway, but Microsoft is taking steps to make sure it’s not just bricking the speaker. The company says a firmware update will be released in early 2021 that basically turns the Invoke into a Bluetooth speaker that you can continue to use to listen to music, podcasts, and other content… you’ll just have to stream that content from a phone, tablet, PC, or other Bluetooth-enabled device.
Some Invoke owners will also have a chance to get a $50 Microsoft gift card (you’ll have to have used the Cortana voice assistant on an Invoke speaker sometime between August 1, 2019 and July 30, 2020 to qualify).
So now that a bunch of consumer-focused Cortana features are shutting down, what’s next for the virtual assistant software?
According to Microsoft, the plan is to shift the focus of its virtual assistant “toward a transformational AI-powered assistant experience in Microsoft 365.”
In other words, it’s going to be tied to the company’s subscription services from here on out. If you use Outlook and/or Teams, you’ll be able to use Cortana with those services. In that way, you can continue using Cortana’s limited feature set on a phone — you’ll just need to install the Outlook or Teams mobile apps.
Microsoft says it’ll also be removing the original Cortana functionality from its 1st-gen Surface Headphones in 2021. But users will still be able to use Cortana… by pairing the headphones with a smartphone running the Outlook mobile app.
via The Verge