Wednesday, March 31, 2021

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.


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 RSS · Twitter

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?

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.

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

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