Microsoft announced several cuts coming to Cortana, its digital assistant today, including ending support for third-party Cortana skills, the Cortana apps on iOS and Android, and Cortana support of the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker. These cuts come as part of Microsoft’s shift of Cortana towards being a productivity-centered assistant.
Cortana support for the various devices won’t be cut off at once. Cortana skills will no longer be supported as of September 7, 2020. In early 2021, Microsoft will stop supporting the Cortana apps on iOS and Android. Harman Kardon Invoke speakers will lose support for Cortana in January 2021.
Microsoft points people toward other features that Cortana has on different platforms. For example, the company highlights the Cortana experience on Windows 10. Additionally, Microsoft points to the Cortana integration on Outlook mobile and the fact that the Teams mobile app will soon support Cortana voice assistance.
While the Harman Kardon Invoke will no longer support Cortana, it will still work as a speaker for music. A firmware update will ship to the Harman Kardon in early 2021 that will allow people to use the device as a Bluetooth speaker. According to Microsoft, “The firmware update will be delivered automatically to devices connected to wifi within six months of its release.”
As a bit of consolation, Microsoft will send one $50 Microsoft gift card per active Invoke to the U.S.-based Microsoft account used to set up the speaker. To receive that gift card, you’ll have to have sent a voice request to Cortana with the device after July 31, 2019 but prior to Microsoft’s announcement today. Presumably this is to stop people from grabbing a bunch of unused Invoke devices to earn gift cards.
In addition to removing Cortana support from several devices, Microsoft is removing the previous version of Cortana from the first version of the Surface Headphones in early 2021. Going forward, all versions of the Surface Headphones and the Surface Earbuds will be able to use Cortana through the integration with Outlook Mobile. This integration can read emails and help manage your inbox.
People affected by the Surface Headphones change will receive a $25 Microsoft Store gift card.
“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.
Some will point to these changes as Microsoft cutting consumers off. Others will see it as a shift from a consumer-facing Cortana to a digital assistant focused on productivity tasks. In either case, Microsoft seems aware that the move will cause frustration.
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