After making public its plans to consolidate all of its three productivity apps, Excel, PowerPoint and Word, under a single application, Microsoft is back with news of further consolidation and convergence of its services on mobile.
This time around, the news is about Cortana, its virtual assistant.
Cortana’s Android app, which has been around since 2015, is set to be retired early next year.
In a statement posted on Microsoft’s support forums in various countries, the company says, “To make your personal digital assistant as helpful as possible, we’re integrating Cortana into your Microsoft 365 productivity apps. As part of this evolution, on January 31st, 2020, we’re ending support for the Cortana app on Android and iOS in your market.”
This in effect means that where needed, in Microsoft’s own apps and services, Cortana will always live on. It just won’t be there on mobile devices as a standalone assistant, effectively no longer being a direct competitor to the Google Assistant.
That is such a shame given that the app had, 2 years ago, made baby steps towards taking on the Assistant head-on on devices. Of course, it wasn’t going to win a war where the platform’s custodian builds experiences right into Cortana’s main competitor but one’s got to try, right?
Now, this take of market-specific pull out of the app will be rather confusing to local users of the app.
For starters, Cortana, at least on Android, has never been available in Kenya through the Play Store. So, for most of us, there is nothing new. Nothing changes.
However, for the few among us that have been keen on trying out a decent Google Assistant alternative, this announcement has several ramifications.
Chief among them is that there will be no more updates coming their way after January 2020, when Microsoft is set to retire the app from the Play Store in several countries. For those using versions of the app sourced from sites in countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and the like, that will be the end of the road.
Word on the grapevine is that the app will be staying put in the US so a switch to US third-party app stores and repositories, assuming it indeed survives this purge, may be needed for continued access to the virtual assistant.
According to Microsoft, after January 2020, content created on Cortana like reminders and lits will no longer be accessible through the Cortana app. Instead, users will be able to find them in corresponding Microsoft apps like Microsoft To Do.
After January 2020, Microsoft says that it will be releasing an update to its launcher, which incorporates Cortana, removing the virtual assistant altogether.
Cortana will, however, remain accessible on other platforms like Windows.