Cortana is a virtual assistant developed by Microsoft, which is powered by AI and the Bing search engine.
As a competitor of Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri, the virtual assistant from Microsoft got its name from a synthetic intelligence character in Microsoft's Halo video game franchise. Launched to the public in 2014, the product somehow failed to get real traction.
Back in 2019, Microsoft began reducing the prevalence of Cortana, and started converting it from an assistant into different software integrations.
Cortana was then removed from Windows 10's search bar, and in 2020, Microsoft began removing Cortana from some markets.
Then, Microsoft ended support for third-party skills, and following that, the one and only smart speaker on the market to support Cortana, also pulled the plug on functionality related to the Microsoft's assistant.
This time, Microsoft is effectively putting the last nail in Cortana's coffin, for consumer use cases at least. And that is by removing the Cortana app from both Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
According to the announcement:
As of March 31, 2021, the Cortana content you created–such as reminders and lists–will no longer function in the Cortana mobile app, but can still be accessed through Cortana in Windows. Also, Cortana reminders, lists, and tasks are automatically synced to the Microsoft To Do app, which you can download to your phone for free.
After March 31, 2021, the Cortana mobile app on your phone will no longer be supported.
When Cortana was first introduced on mobile phones, the apps were originally designed to connect Windows 10 PCs and mobile phones.
But it failed to gain traction despite a big redesign.
Since the eponymous mobile apps never gained a user base big enough for Microsoft to consider it worth maintaining, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Microsoft no longer saw Cortana as a competitor to Alexa and Google Assistant.
Because of this, Microsoft had to bury its dreams of having a future full of Cortana-powered IoT devices.
It should be noted that the planned shutdown of the Cortana apps was first announced in July 2020.
At that time, Microsoft said that it would be shifting toward a "transformational AI-powered assistant experience" in its Microsoft 365 apps, which would involve refocusing Cortana's "areas of innovation and development."
In other words, Microsoft that knew it could never realize its dream, is not completely done with Cortana.
The company still sees value in conversational AI, and tries to reposition Cortana as an assistant that can improve Microsoft’s enterprise-focused offerings.
To make use of Cortana, Microsoft shifted the product's focus from a tool to market its AI, to a tool to improve its own products instead.
The company has since improved Cortana's integration in Microsoft 365, such as introducing personalized, actionable briefs in Outlook for Exchange users, and adding Cortana to the Microsoft Teams mobile app to do things like manage calendars, email, and join meetings.
Following the news, the hashtag #RIPCortana was being used on Twitter, as many people pointed out how forgettable the assistant had been.