> Cortana is continuing to redefine the nature of a digital assistant, ... accelerating productivity to help save you time and focus on the things that matter most
> The first change is to end support for all third-party Cortana skills
> Cortana in Surface Headphones will continue pivoting toward its mission to help customers with productivity throughout their day. We’ll be removing support for the previous version of Cortana in the first version of Surface Headphones
So much acceleration, wow.
> As we make this shift toward a transformational AI-powered assistant experience in Microsoft 365...
While I’m sure there’s a world of difference, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought of Clippy making a comeback. “transformational AI-powered assistant experience in Microsoft 365” certainly sounds like a PR-enhanced description of Clippy.
I can just imagine PR Clippy...
"It looks like you're trying to write spin, can I help you with that?"
... By shutting it down?
Maybe they found out people were only using it to slack off
I can’t even parse that last line. “Making changes [to functionality] with lower usage.”
Does that mean that it is less used? Or does that mean they are lowering usage?
> ...we’ve worked closely with Harman Kardon to create a Bluetooth-enabled device transition plan that we hope will help ease the impact of this change. Customers who receive a firmware update from Harman Kardon in early 2021 will still be able to continue listening...on their Invoke via Bluetooth.
If I'm reading this correctly, they're basically saying "very few people really use this as a 'smart' speaker, so we'll just turn it into a normal Bluetooth speaker and move on." I'm not sure whether that says more about Cortana or about the smart speaker market, but it seems like an...ok compromise? Certainly better than just bricking the thing.
The hype surrounding digital voice assistants have died out. It’s still useful in a few situations, but not having one isn’t as huge a defeat as it would have been 5 years ago. Microsoft could drop Cortana completely and be fine.
I had the same issue recently with a BMW voice activation system I was playing with. Mimicking an English accent worked for that one!
I would have spoken to it in a foreign language if they had let me. Instead, I have no idea to this day what Cortana sounds like.
That is a pet peeve that we have back home, because of market size, many US companies rather support Brazilian Portuguese than any of other variants.
European Portuguese gets left out due to market size, while African and Asian Portuguese get left out due to buying capabilites.
Thing is, having to speak to a device, in another language variant just feels weird, leaving out the little detail that one does need to learn the differences as well.
would you consider British English the only actual English?
Not only Brazil has 20 times the population of Portugal, but there are considerations to be made about how languages evolve in the periphery, which might not apply to Portuguese, but certainly apply to Canadian French vs French French.
Instead of paying for half working stuff and then complaying like many do here, I rather not give any money at all.
Alexa is the only one that turned out remotely useful for me.
However, when busy, it still feels faster to say "set timer for x minutes" with just a long press on the home button.
I tend to agree: I think switching it to a simple Bluetooth speaker is a reasonable way forward under the circumstances.
As a related aside this, along with a raft of other support withdrawals recently (the most recent that comes to mind is those smart glasses), I do feel somewhat vindicated in my policy to keep things as dumb as possible: speakers are just speakers, lightbulbs are just lightbulbs, my kettle is just a kettle, and - if I do need any smarts - I attach a general purpose computing device to provide them. E.g, it's just incredibly easy to connect my laptop or phone to my hi-fi via a DAC or audio interface to stream music over Spotify.
The point of this is that it means most of my household devices and appliances remain brick-proof, and I shouldn't have to keep replacing them every 3 - 5 years just because manufacturers stop supporting them.
I have a similar but marginally more lax policy: I'm fine with smart devices as long as they don't have to phone home to operate and they have on-device controls.
For obviously Internet of Shit-worthy appliances (Cory Doctorow's smart toaster or whatever) I'll always choose the dumb version, and I make sure that I only use home automation stuff that's as widely interoperable as possible, but otherwise I don't particularly fuss about it as long as it meets all of my other requirements.
I think modularity is really key here. As long as you can replace or update each component individually without impacting the rest of it, you should be good.
That's exactly it: the ability to easily swap out components, and then high levels of interoperability. I think I perhaps didn't express myself so well because I'm broadly in agreement with you. It's the phone home aspect that often makes smart devices a problem.
I think we've seen a lot of backlash where companies treat their (disposable) products as disposable, and this is a good thing to see.
Also, companies like Harman Kardon have lifetime relationships with their customers.
This is actually the hardest part for me to understand. They want me to drag a Win10 laptop everywhere to use the assistant instead of just using my phone?
 I say this with lament, because it was IMO a legitimately good phone OS. My Lumia 920 is still my backup phone, 8 years later, because the ones I got after that died before replacement. But the death was certainly not a surprise. Once they started adding more features to Android apps than existed in the Windows Phone versions, the writing was on the wall about where the money was going.
I haven't met a single person that uses Cortana and those who tried are usually not coming back. For me Cortana has basically no useful features (maybe its because of my language settings), its just software bloat and in addition to that, its a privacy nightmare.
The only association I have with Cortana is it screaming at me when I do a clean install of Windows 10, which is a thing of the past thanks to my switch to macOS.
HI THERE I’M CORTANA AND I’M HERE TO HELP
I don't think you want to disable this "cortana".
It reminds me of when Microsoft was dead set on conflating the file manager “explorer” and Internet Explorer.
Can someone justify this?
From the programming standpoint, a monolith can be splitted in components, but compiled/bundled/linked to a single executable.
This doesn't violate the seperation of concern. It's bad taste/marketing/whatever.
I checked on my Windows and they did separate Cortana and the Search/Start menu recently.
(Well, it gone on my PC and I did nothing in particular).
It was the annoying assistant, and the start menu.
If I had an AI powered assistant, it's actual data would be on my system, and not out on the internet somewhere. It wouldn't need to send my speech out.
But further, it would actually be an assistant. It would be able to operate all the applications on my computer.
"Cortana, copy the last three Slack messages in the current channel to a new Box document. Call it Requirements and add the date." -> Uses two separate apps for which I have open sessions, can exercise my credentials (where I complete the MFA when needed).
"Cortana, search all my communications for things related to Bob. I need to trace all of his activities that I have record for. Include Sumologic logs for the applications I support." -> Searches chat logs, email, and web application logs out in my log collection.
"Cortana, find out from Mom what groceries she needs today, and place Instacart orders accordingly."
The "assistants" we have today can't combine actions. They are just isolated pools of menu selections. They can't replace hands-on-keyboard for the things I regularly need to do with my computers or devices. They need to become intention-processors, not just language parsers to activate a menu.
This is especially egregious with Siri, which Apple repeatedly tries to gaslight everyone about. Apple does demos every year, yet Siri continues to suck just as it always did. But Apple keeps pretending that it doesn't suck. This goes completely against the ethos of Apple not releasing stuff until it's "insanely great".
That's probably why it's most successful in a handful of verticals, like timers and music control. There are a finite list of likely commands, and people can probably guess them first time.
When you move much beyond that, you start getting a high miss rate because there's no good way to pull a list of valid commands or options.
Importantly, especially for home automation, "option guessability" is a big thing-- you might know the commands, but the relevant options are specific to each location, and you were likely not there when it was configured. How do you know that the light fixtures are named "Left sconce, right sconce, ceiling fan, and table lamp", and not "north, south, Bob, and Matilda?"
Voice UI is also a terrible situation for error recovery. I can't figure out a voice-only UI that would handle a simple case like "which light do you want to turn on?" well. At best, it could read you a list of all the devices that might be relevant for the question, but that's so low information-density and will feel like a bad telephone IVR service.
The "Siri with a screen" design convention might have been sensible, as that would have provided a way to disambiguate queries quickly, with buttons to show the options, and at idle, a browsable list of supported commands.
Of course, at that point, you're making a more obvious machine with a (voice-based) command-line. That's shatters the illusion they're selling of this being your secretary/concierge, with arbitrary and broad capabilities, who happens to be a robot.
These types of system can’t be released “only when perfect” unfortunately as they need many iterations with real world data.
Also a $50 gift card if you own the Harman Kardon Invoke speakers: https://www.bing.com/cortanainvokeredemption
Pretty crappy that the links to these are buried in the FAQ
The timing and the marketing was perhaps not as good as the product itself.
Microsoft is surprisingly good at designing hardware and devices, and surprisingly bad at marketing them. Just like with Windows Phone, they were late to the party but acted like they already own the market. (I guess you just can't help yourself if you dominate the desktop OS market that much.) Both times they added unnecessary restrictions to the devices and set the pricing relatively high. You can do this if you're Apple and created the whole market and are generally known as a premium brand, but MS just isn't.
They somehow managed to take Nokia with their amazing hardware (look at Nokia N9, N900 and Maemo) and turn it into pure garbage (Microsoft Lumia series and their POS Windows Phone 10).
It was also huge compared to contemporary iPods. From what I remember, one of the few nice features were the sharing capabilities, where you could Zune songs you had bought over to friends, but those only worked Zune to Zune, so to actually avail that feature it had to first become popular enough that you would frequently meet people who also owned a Zune.
The Zune wasn’t a bad device. It was just too little too late. And the iPhone introduced less than a year later (and the obvious iPod touch that everyone knew was coming) meant that it was all over for the Zune before it even had a chance to get started.