Microsoft is shutting down its digital assistant app Cortana this month, having now put more of its focus on modern-day AI advances, like its ChatGPT-like Bing Chat and other AI-powered productivity features across Windows and its web browser Edge. A support page confirms the end of Cortana as a standalone app in Windows, starting in August 2023.
The company also confirmed to TechCrunch the page was first published earlier in June, but declined to share more of its thinking on the matter beyond what was referenced on the page itself.
However, reading between the lines from the explanation provided, it appears that Microsoft sees Cortana as something that was a stepping stone toward this new AI future, where users will instead rely on a smarter chatbot running GPT-4, powered thanks to Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI. The company also announced in May that it would build this new ChatGPT-based Bing experience right into Windows 11.
In the meantime, Windows users will be in a transitional period where Cortana will still be around in some form, though the standalone Windows app will no longer be supported. For now, however, Cortana will continue to be available in Outlook mobile, Teams mobile, Microsoft Teams display, and Microsoft Teams rooms, the company notes.
Those Cortana-powered experiences may not be long for this world either, as Microsoft has already detailed its plans to bring Bing Chat to the enterprise, where Microsoft 365 Copilot will be integrated into its productivity software, plus Outlook, Teams, and more.
“We know that this change may affect some of the ways you work in Windows, so we want to help you transition smoothly to the new options,” Microsoft explains on the support page. “Instead of clicking the Cortana icon and launching the app to begin using voice, now you can use voice and satisfy your productivity needs through different tools.”
The company then points users to Cortana alternatives like Windows 11 voice access which lets users control their PC with voice commands, the new AI-powered Bing, Microsoft 365 Copilot, and Windows Copilot, which offers centralized AI assistance for Windows users.
The website Windows Latest (not affiliated with Microsoft) was the first to report on the Cortana app’s shutdown, having noticed that the latest update for the Cortana Windows app caused the app to stop working. Upon launching the app, a message informed users that “Cortana in Windows as a standalone app is deprecated” and pointed to the support page through a “Learn More” button.
Microsoft’s shift to Bing Chat from its first-gen assistant Cortana may be later mirrored by other big tech companies.
This week, The Information reported, for example, that Amazon promoted its head scientist for Alexa, Rohit Prasad, to run a team developing artificial general intelligence. That signals that Amazon, too, may be thinking about how Alexa could evolve into something more capable than the digital assistant it is today. Apple has also been developing its own generative AI tools, Bloomberg reported, but hasn’t yet decided how they would be released to customers.