Microsoft’s Cortana app for iOS and Android will be discontinued soon, the company has announced on a support page. This effectively puts a nail in Cortana’s coffin for consumer use, at least insofar as it competes directly with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
Here’s what the announcement says:
We will soon end support for the Cortana app on Android and iOS as Cortana continues its evolution as a productivity assistant.
As of March 31, 2021, the Cortana content you’ve created, such as reminders and lists, will no longer work in the Cortana mobile app, but will still be accessible through Cortana on Windows. Cortana reminders, lists, and tasks also sync automatically with the Microsoft To Do app, which you can download to your phone for free.
After March 31, 2021, the Cortana mobile app on your phone will no longer be supported.
This is no surprise. Microsoft had already started to do away with Cortana on mobile devices in certain markets, and writing hit the wall when the company announced that many of Cortana’s consumer-facing skillset would be getting the ax about a year ago.
Support for third-party skills has ended and the only true smart speaker on the market that supports Cortana pulled the plug on functionality related to Microsoft’s assistant earlier this month.
Microsoft announced the change for its mobile apps in July.
This isn’t the end of Cortana, though; Microsoft is simply pulling out of any area where Cortana failed to gain traction over competitors like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. But Cortana is still heavily integrated into Microsoft 365 in several ways; you can think of Cortana as the modern, much smarter equivalent of Clippy in a way.
A few years ago (not all that long ago, really), the craze for smart assistants started sweeping consumer electronics, and plenty of big companies were trying to get their own assistants there, from Google to Amazon, LG, Samsung, Microsoft, and Apple.
Most of this was powered by smart speakers and some features on mobile devices, although the expansion of the smart home category also played a part. But it was impossible to survive all these smart assistant offers; consolidation was inevitable.
This is partly because it is a heavy burden for the many smaller technology companies to include support for all the countless assistants in their hardware and software products. In recent years, Google and Amazon have achieved a shared dominance in this wide-open space, with Apple’s Siri playing a more limited role on certain devices.
Do you remember Bixby?
Like Samsung’s Bixby (which still exists but isn’t really making waves), Microsoft’s Cortana just couldn’t compete. And on the face of it, that’s a shame – it was hard not to root for the one with the audacity to be named after a video game character Halofinally.
Today, Google Assistant and/or Amazon Alexa can be found in one form or another in a large number of personal electronics products. And while Apple’s Siri hasn’t had the same impact on the entire ecosystem, it has a huge install base in Apple’s own products, and usage stats suggest users rely heavily on the assistant.
Meanwhile (at least for the foreseeable future) you can still see Cortana hanging out in Microsoft Office and answering your basic questions like a chatbot.