Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant never took off like the company hoped. Windows Phone died, which didn’t help, and although it release an Android and iOS app, they never saw wide traction. Even partner-made thermostats and speakers failed to dazzle. Now, Microsoft says it will end support for Cortana on iOS and Android, and the Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker will be just a Bluetooth speaker.
In truth, that may be for the best. I tried using a Harmon Kardon Invoke Cortana-powered speaker for a weekend, and it went poorly. Voice commands never worked well, third-part skills were lacking, and the most powerful thing you could do was call up Alexa. The speaker sounds great, but Cortana is terrible.
That’s been the route of Cortana in general, and slowly Microsoft has moved away from positioning the personal assistant as a consumer service towards a prosumer service. In recent demos, you’ll see Cortana used in office settings, not home settings.
As reported by ZDNet, Microsoft will end support for all third-party Cortana skills on September 7. Following that, it will end support for the iOS and Android apps in early 2021. If you’re using tasks or calendar features, Microsoft suggests using Windows 10’s Cortana capabilities instead.
And the Invoke Cortana-powered speaker date gets a kill date of January 2021. Microsoft is working with Harmon Kardon on a process to update the speaker’s firmware. That update will turn the speaker into a standard Bluetooth speaker. If you want to use Spotify, you’ll need to pull out your phone and make a Bluetooth connection.
That may sound disappointing, but that’s the best feature the Harmon Kardon had in the first place, so at least the device will still work in some fashion. Microsoft says it will provide affected Invoke speaker owners a $50 Microsoft Store gift card, though only to the last Microsoft account connected to the speaker.
And if you have the original Microsoft Surface headphones, Cortana is leaving those as well. The company is offering a $25 gift card for your troubles.
It’s unlikely Cortana can compete with Alexa and Google Assistant at this point, so the pivot to office settings makes sense. Cortana will still be around, just not in the form of a personal assistant.