Microsoft Bringing Cortana Changes to Spring Windows 10 Update
Microsoft announced an update of the "Cortana experience" in Windows 10 last week, describing the new set of enhancements as "the next step in the evolution" of the voice-controlled digital assistant software.
The free update, coming later this spring and delivered through Microsoft 365, aims is to enhance Cortana as a productivity tool, the company said in a statement, helping users find the information they want quickly across the entire online enterprise application suite. The update will include a chat-based UI designed to provide users with the ability to interact with Cortana using voice or keyboard commands.
Microsoft 365 is used by organizations, but the announcement did include some changes that will affect consumer users (i.e., Windows 10 Home edition users), the company said.
The Cortana update will have a few regional variations; U.S. users, for example, will be able to use Cortana for tasks and calendar scheduling. In contrast, non-U.S. users will get access to Cortana chat and Bing search with the enhancements.
The announcement didn't offer a reason for these regional differences. They're likely due to the stronger privacy protections that exist outside the United States with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Microsoft also is planning to require account log-ins to use Cortana with the feature update: "We've tightened access to Cortana so that you must be securely logged in with your work or school account or your Microsoft account before using Cortana," the company said, "and some consumer skills, including music, connected home and third-party skills will no longer be available in the updated Cortana experience in Windows 10."
Exactly why the "music, connected home and third-party skills" Cortana operations will end wasn't explained.
There's also a big change coming for users of Cortana on Android mobile devices. Microsoft plans to turn off Cortana services in the Microsoft Launcher on Android by the end of April. No other details or alternatives were offered.
If a Windows 10 channel release has hit its end-of-support milestone, support for Cortana will also end, Microsoft said. However, that's been Microsoft's standard practice.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Microsoft's announcement was the account log-in requirement to use Cortana. It may be a coincidence, but some observers have recently found that Microsoft account creation seems to be a requirement for new Windows 10 installations, although the account can be deleted later. At least, that seems to be the case for Windows 10 Home edition users. The phenomenon was described recently in a Born's Tech and Windows World post.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.