Wednesday, March 31, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Goodbye, Cortana

Tim Hardwick:

Microsoft today discontinued its Cortana mobile app. As a result, the company has ended all support for third-party Cortana skills and eliminated the Cortana app for iOS and Android devices.

[…]

The eponymous mobile app was originally launched in November 2018, but apparently never gained a user base big enough in its short lifetime for Microsoft to consider it worth maintaining.

Previously:

Update (2021-03-31): Tanner Bennett:

Not that I would have even used it, but Cortana as an app could never compete with the built in virtual assistant. It’s a shame regulatory action hasn’t ever been taken to force Apple to allow us to set a default assistant.

4 Comments

On paper, I agree with Tanner (and one of the ways this continues to play out is that iPhones just don't integrate as well with Windows as they could — Apple obviously has a vested interest in making the Mac experience better).

In practice, it would require significant changes to iOS's security model, and for what? Suddenly, everything becomes a lot more complicated. Suppose they provide special entitlements to become a digital assistant. Wouldn't Amazon apply to this program, too? Should Apple let them in? Do they then change their "iPhones are the better choice for privacy" messaging to add a "unless you use Alexa as your digital assistant, at which point, shrug emoji!" footnote?

@Sören,
Apple made third party keyboards work, and that seems to pose a similar privacy threat. I could imagine them creating a hook for 3rd party assistants and having an extra permission level to know about and send commands to the apps you have installed.

> Apple made third party keyboards work, and that seems to pose a similar privacy threat

Kind of, but:

* if the keyboard wants "full access", it needs to request that separately, and you are warned in multiple places
* even then, those keyboards flat-out don't appear in some places, such as the lock screen

(There's another limitation of the lock screen: its flashlight and camera buttons are hard-linked to Apple's apps. Same for the Timer and Calculator apps you can access via Control Center even when locked.)

I think "also works on the lock screen" has been a bridge too far for Apple (thus far), and I'm not sure a voice assistant is very useful if you first need to unlock. They would want voice activation as well, while the device is locked.

@Sören,
Funny you should say that. Just tonight, HomePod Siri made me unlock my phone to complete a task. Very frustrating.

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