Cortana’s in-context assistance technology brings AI smarts to Skype chats

Cortana is Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant that is available across all major platforms. On the desktop, it is central to the Windows 10 operating system that Microsoft rolled out in mid-2015. On mobile, it not only straddles the entire length of Microsoft’s (dead) Windows Mobile platform but also those managed by competitors Apple and Google, iOS and Android. One thing that the latter two platforms have going for them is that their custodians, namely Apple and Google, are actively bundling new features like intelligent personal assistants into apps handling critical functions. Like messaging, for instance.

Microsoft is also doing the same. With no mobile platform to call home, it is using one of its most widely-used applications with cross-platform appeal, Skype, to make Cortana irresistible.

Soon, Cortana will be able to step in and help matters into contexts in-chat, according to Microsoft.

“Cortana can also help you organize your day—no need to leave your conversations. Cortana can detect when you’re talking about scheduling events or things you have to do and will recommend setting up a reminder, which you will receive on all your devices that have Cortana enabled. So, whether you’re talking about weekend plans or an important work appointment, nothing will slip through the cracks.”

That’s not all. Cortana will also be available as a plain contact within the Skype app that users can turn to any time to ask questions.

If all this sounds familiar then it’s because it really is. Isn’t this what Google’s Assistant has been doing? Only that in the case of Assistant, its AI (Artificial Intelligence) smarts have been lost on a messaging application no one uses, Allo. Skype has been another name for VoIP services for years. It’s just now that it’s having an identity crisis as Microsoft is caught up between satisfying those who’ve stuck by the service for years and prefer the familiar old blue interface and the young who’ve embraced Snapchat and other new-age messaging services. Whichever the case, all these users are likely to welcome the arrival of an intelligent companion to spice up their chats as well as add value.

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Sadly, though, it’s American users who first dibs on the updated Skype app that has Cortana baked in. The rest of us in far-flung areas have to wait, fingers crossed and rosary in hand.

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