No Great Loss

Cortana Is All but Dead… and Good Riddance

Microsoft’s voice assistant had overstayed its welcome, other tech giants should take note

Not everything tech giants attempt to copy from other tech giants works out in the end. Microsoft’s Cortana is a prime example of that. (Image credit: Unknown)

In line with announcements it made last July regarding its voice assistant, Microsoft has shut down Cortana in its app form for iOS and Android devices. Any lists, reminders or other content people have created with those apps is still accessible through Cortana for Windows 10 — assuming that they are signed in with the same Microsoft account of course — while that data can likewise be downloaded on smartphones or tablets through the Microsoft To Do app. Cortana has been gradually phased out over the course of several years, being unable to compete with Alexa, Siri and Assistant offered by Amazon, Apple and Google respectively. In Microsoft’s own words “Cortana will become a productivity assistant offering Office 365 functionality for enterprise customers”.

Cortana not being available on smartphones or tablets anymore is a fitting conclusion, as it was originally conceived as “Microsoft’s answer to Siri” which came to market three years earlier. The Redmond giant’s version of this function/service was later ported to Xbox One and Windows 10 where it did not fare better than on Windows Phone because, well, it did not offer all that much (at the same time raising concerns about privacy while in operation and personal information data gathering in general). Cortana was removed from the Xbox dashboard and operating system in 2019. It’s still embedded in Windows 10 but effectively inactive since February of last year, presumably in order to be available to anyone wanting to use Cortana with Office 365.

Inspired by the Xbox Halo video game virtual character, Cortana never evolved into a digital assistant worthy of that reference. (Image credit: Unknown)

All this, in retrospect, brings into sharp focus the arrogance embedded in almost every tech giant’s thinking: the notion that if someone has done something fresh and interesting, they can do something similar but better — and reap the rewards that maybe even the one who came up with that something hasn’t reaped yet. It’s one of the ways Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and others have introduced “new” products, services and features for decades.

Megacorporations copying one another is fine — it’s even beneficial to consumers because competition really is a good thing. What none of those tech giants seem to get, though, is that if you are late to the party, then you’d better bring something really, really good to the table. Not just something as good as what’s already out there (definitely not something worse), but something much better, preferably with a twist of its own.

Cortana failed to compete with Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant but Microsoft still attempted to get almost a billion people to use it. This was unacceptable. (Image credit: Unknown)

It’s no coincidence that 90% of the time these tech giants fail to deliver that. They deem it more important to not get left behind, to not miss the train of a hot new trend that’s emerging, than to take their time and offer a competitive product or service. Cortana is the perfect example of this in the worst possible way: not only was it inferior to Siri and Google Assistant from the get-go, not only did it not bring anything new that’s actually useful to consumers, but it failed to evolve into an actually competent product in the course of 6 years. It had to go. Simple as that.

Tech companies experimenting with new ideas others have come up with is perfectly understandable, even desirable. Tech companies trying to shove their inferior products down people’s throats, as Microsoft has tried to do with Cortana to millions of Xbox owners and hundreds of millions of Windows 10 users, is inexcusable. Here’s hope that next time the Redmond giant attempts to do the same thing, Cortana’s utter failure will give its managers pause — and that managers of other tech companies will take note.

Veteran journalist, project kickstarter, tech nut, cynical gamer, music addict, movie maniac. Will work for money, fame and bandwidth. More on farkonas.com.

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