Sci-tech

Microsoft explains the upcoming changes to Cortana voice assistant

The Seattle-based tech company first withdrew the Cortana for iOS app from a number of regions early in 2020. now, it is announcing plans to shut down the iOS and Android versions of the apps entirely.

Microsoft today announced that some USA consumer-centric features of Cortana are being phased out soon due to low usage (via ZDNet).

Cortana support for the various devices won't be cut off at once. Third-party Cortana skills will be deprecated on September 7, while the iOS and Android apps will stop being supported in early 2021.

Meanwhile, owners of the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker can expect the firmware update to arrive in early 2021. For example, the company highlights the Cortana experience on Windows 10.

Next year, the tech giant is also ending the consumer Cortana service for two products: the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker and the Surface Headphones.

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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. 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. The firmware update will be delivered automatically to devices connected to wifi within six months of its release, and once it's installed users will still be able to listen to music, podcasts, and radio stations via Bluetooth without using Cortana. But owners will still be able to access some Cortana skills. Today, Microsoft published a new support article detailing the upcoming changes coming to Cortana. "Additionally, we are offering the opportunity to receive one Microsoft $50 gift card per active Invoke". Presumably this is to stop people from grabbing a bunch of unused Invoke devices to earn gift cards.

As for the Surface Headphones, the company is going to remove the legacy version of Cortana from the product. This integration can read emails and help manage your inbox. Instead of competing with Google Assistant and Alexa, Microsoft said that it is positioning Cortana as a personal productivity assistant.

"We've spent a lot of time thinking through this transition and understand that these changes may be disruptive to some of our customers", says the company toward the end of its announcement.

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