Why did Microsoft “kill” Cortana?

As early as last month, it was announced that Microsoft would stop supporting Cortana on mobile platforms such as Android and iOS. By January 31, 2020, Microsoft will close the Cortana app in Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Mexico, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Here’s Microsoft’s statement at the time:

Cortana is an integral part of our vision, bringing the power and productivity of dialogue computing to platforms and devices. However, in order for Cortana to be more useful, we decided to further integrate Cortana into the Microsoft 365 application. Therefore, we need to end support for Cortana on Android and iOS platforms.

In fact, Microsoft’s transformation of Cortana’s growth strategy is nothing new, but “killing” Cortana is still a very bold move.

Andrew Shuman is the leader of the Cortana team and has been dedicated to the team since The End of Javier Soltero in 2018. Now he’s starting to think calmly about it all.

Cortana’s home in the United States

Andrew Shuman has confirmed that the Cortana mobile app will disappear from all countries except the US, although Microsoft has previously listed only eight countries.

There are some reasons for this, Andrew Shuman. He says the Cortana app is one of the ways U.S. users update the firmware on their Surface headsets, and there are still people using the Cortana app to manage Surface headset operations.

However, this argument does not seem convincing. After all, Microsoft began selling Surface headsets in Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and Switzerland earlier this year. After January 30, 2020, only Surface headset users in the U.S. will continue to use Cortana on Android and iOS devices, and other Surface headset users will have to use Cortana on Windows.

The good news is that Microsoft did Plan B for this. In the spring of 2020, Microsoft plans to launch Surface Earbuds, a built-in Surface Audio app that will not only work on Android, iOS and Windows platforms, but also support the management of existing Surface headsets to set up and configure Cortan A.

Andrew Shuman also mentioned a smart sound Invokes that could use Cortana. The smart speaker is only available in the U.S., and although sales are low, the market still exists.

All in all, Andrew Shuman sees two reasons for shutting down Cortana on a mobile platform outside the U.S. market:

Cortana apps for Android and iOS are less attractive outside the U.S., where Cprtana usage and engagement are much lower.

Cortana for Android and iOS is still popular in the U.S. because Microsoft wants to experiment. They believe that independent assistants can be used as a place to experiment with new ideas.

Cortana’s future efforts

If Cortana for Android and iOS underperforms in certain markets outside the U.S., how does Cortana perform on Windows? Andrew Shuman says:

Cortana did really well in these eight markets on Windows, which partly inspired our initial idea of developing Cortana mobile applications. However, given our focus on productive users, we believe Cortana makes more sense to users within Office and Windows.

In other words, competitors’ voice assistants are competing fiercely on mobile devices, and Microsoft is focusing on the enterprise.

Andrew Shuman also noted that Cortana will appear in Microsoft Teams, which will be launched in 2020, but there is no specific release date yet. Therefore, Andrew Shuman points out that, in addition to Windows and Office, you should expect Cortana to be included in every Microsoft application, such as Microsoft Search or Microsoft Account.

Currently, users can talk to Cortana, but cannot communicate in writing. Given that not everyone wants to talk to the voice assistant, some voice assistants can be able to type. Andrew Shuman says this is really what Cortana is going to do in the future, and the ability to type Cortana will be possible next year. He said:

We are committed to providing a faster experience for typists on Windows. But I also think that natural language is a very important point. Cortana, for example, intelligently reads e-mail for users based on the amount of work we do in natural languages. Moreover, natural language understanding can simplify the process of data access to software.

Andrew Shuman also talked about some of the company’s plans for Alexa and Cortana’s partnership. He says Amazon and Microsoft are still eager to do more between the two companies; now, users can still call Cortana through Alexa, and vice versa; it will be a good opportunity for them to learn from each other.

However, the collaboration between Alexa and Cortana was not previously a good one, but Andrew Shuman says “everything is fine.” He added:

Of course, we’re still investing in it, and it’s still a very new experience. While setting up two assistants is cumbersome (users need to use amazon accounts to set up Alexa, and Microsoft accounts to set up Cortana), we’ll try to make connecting both accounts easier and we want to make it clear to users when they’re on Amazon services or Use personalized data in Microsoft services.

As we all know, as long as a user logs in, the company can collect the user’s information through the voice assistant. Andrew Shuman explains:

As we move from a more pure consumer space to a business and office productivity space, Microsoft is becoming more aware of users’ data. This undoubtedly brings its own challenges and opportunities – we did complete a completely different AI model. However, we take complex samples of public data sets and employee-donated data and then summarize them. As a result, no one on the team will view the user’s private data. If users are using office 365 services, we will follow a very strict data storage model to ensure that no one but the user themselves can view their associated private data. We attach great importance to that commitment.

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