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Microsoft has quietly terminated its Cortana smart assistant in Windows, leaving Siri as the last smart assistant still being actively developed. But, does it really matter?
Cortana’s “death” has been a long, drawn-out affair. Microsoft began removing Cortana support on mobile back in 2021 and is just now bumping it off in Windows.
A Microsoft support document, first shared by Windows Latest, notes that support for Cortana as a separate app will be dropped in Windows starting in August 2023. While the article doesn’t name a specific date for the shutdown, we can apparently expect an update to remove the smart assistant any day now.
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Cortana will continue to be available in Microsoft Teams display, Microsoft Teams rooms, Outlook mobile, and Teams mobile.
Microsoft is dropping Cortana as the Redmond firm turns its attention to its Open AI partnership, as Chat GPT is currently all the rage. Microsoft’s Bing Chat is a Large Language Model (LLM) powered chatbot that allows users to ask complex questions that are answered in a somewhat flawed manner.
Once upon a time (say, around 2011 or so) the smart assistant space was booming, as tech firms began working on several of the assistants, including Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, Samsung’s Bixby, and several other short-lived projects.
Lately, just about every tech company except Apple has pulled back from the smart assistant space. In November, Amazon laid off a good-sized chunk of its Alexa division personnel as the company looked to stem the bleeding from the Alexa department, deprioritizing the division even as it continues to release new Alexa-powered hardware.
Samsung’s Bixby assistant was slowly deprioritized in favor of Google Assistant back in 2020.
Even Google appears to be pulling away from its well-known assistant in favor of its AI-powered Bard. Google Assistant appears to be an afterthought now, as Google’s discussions about AI during its 2023 I/O event concentrated on Bard and other LLM projects.
Apple still pushes Siri, yet it too is increasingly spending on developing an AI chatbot, although none of those capabilities have yet made an appearance in Siri’s features. Some Apple insiders have told publications that there have been internal arguments about abandoning Siri in favor of a Bard-like assistant. However, Apple’s much-respected concern for user privacy continues to delay any moves in this area.
During last Thursday’s fiscal Q3 2023 earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said AI is “absolutely critical” to Apple. Cook also said that Apple has been looking into AI and generative AI “for years.”
In an after-call interview with Reuters, Cook indicated that Apple’s investments in AI make up a large part of the $22.6 billion it’s already spent on research and development this year.
Despite the possibility that Apple will replace Siri’s backend with AI chatbot technology, the Cupertino firm is unlikely to drop the use of the well-known “Siri” moniker in favor of a new name.