Microsoft to sunset Cortana on iOS and Android in pivot to ‘productivity-focused’ assistant

(Microsoft Image)

Microsoft will shut down Cortana on a wide range of devices, reflecting the challenge for third-party voice assistants attempting to compete with built-in programs like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant.

The company announced Friday it will discontinue all third-party Cortana skills on Sept. 7, and in early 2021 the company will stop supporting the Cortana app for iOS and Android devices.

Cortana will no longer be integrated with the Harman Kardon Invoke smart speaker starting in January 2021 as well. Microsoft says it will work with Harman Kardon to create a transition plan for customers, including offering a $50 gift card for each active speaker, with some caveats. In addition, Microsoft will no longer offer Cortana as a built-in voice assistant on the original Surface Headphones.

Previously: Microsoft gives up on Cortana as an Alexa rival, now views assistant as cross-platform skill

The decision reflects Microsoft’s focus on business and enterprise technology over consumer offerings. Microsoft will focus on repurposing aspects of Cortana for its suite of productivity products rather than attempting to compete on consumer devices with leaders in the virtual assistant space, like Apple, Google, and Amazon. Cortana has fallen behind those competitors as Microsoft doubles down on enterprise technology.

“As we make this shift toward a transformational AI-powered assistant experience in Microsoft 365, we need to adjust our focus areas of innovation and development to give our customers assistance where they need it most,” Microsoft said in its announcement. “As a result, we are making changes to some U.S. consumer-centric features and functionalities with lower usage.”

Microsoft has largely withdrawn from the smartphone operating system market, leaving Cortana without a native mobile platform to compete with Siri and Google Assistant. The company also doesn’t have the advantage that Amazon enjoys with its Echo smart speakers, which work in conjunction with the Alexa app on smartphones

The company is encouraging users to manage email, calendars, and other tools using “new productivity-focused experiences” such as Cortana on Windows 10 and the virtual assistant’s integrations into Microsoft Teams and Outlook.

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