back to article Microsoft to Cortana: you’re not going out dressed in iOS or Android, young lady!

Microsoft has decided to restrict the roles that its AI assistant Cortana is permitted to fill. A Saturday support update explained that support for third-party Cortana skills will end in September 2020. Cortana’s iOS and Android apps will suffer the same fate in “early 2021”. Cortana’s incarnation in a Harman Kardon smart …

  1. hammarbtyp

    "Cortana - please justify your existence" and it promptly uninstalls in a puff of logic

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Spin on it!

      (Bonus points for getting the reference).

      1. Evil Harry
        Thumb Up

        Spin on it!

        You've got brains, man! Brains you've never used!

        So?

        Justify yourself!

    2. AMBxx Silver badge

      One down, three to go...

    3. amateriat

      "Oh, that was easy", said Microsoft, and proceeded to claim that Swiss cheese is sheet-metal and and makes a mess of subsequent Win10 Service Packs.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Cortana’s incarnation in a Harman Kardon smart speaker will end"

    This sort of thing is why consumers need legal redress / protection. If a device is purchased with a feature, that feature should be available for the life of the product - where "life" is not defined by the vendor (but need not be infinite).

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: "Cortana’s incarnation in a Harman Kardon smart speaker will end"

      Exactly, this is the problem you have when you try and put IoT in goods not designed for that - cars, industrial processes, speakers, white goods etc.

      The products are expected to last, probably, a couple of decades and the tech stops working and either makes the product unusable or a security risk after a couple of years.

      I'm still using my radio alarm from 1989. It still does its job. Our 2017 smart TV has already lost its "smarts", because Sony stopped delivering security updates last summer, so I removed it from the network as a security risk. Even worse, my daughter and her friend bought a Sony smart TV for Christmas 2018, Sony stopped updates and things, like Amazon Prime and Netflix, actually stopped working in October 2019.

      We have both just stuck a FireTV Stick in the back, but that is the last time that I'll buy a smart anything. I'll buy a high-quality, non-smart device and cheap, disposable "smarts" where they are warranted. That way the high quality product will run for a decent lifetime and the smarts can simply be replaced when support stops. I'd rather replace a FireTV Stick ever 3 - 4 years than a smart TV every 18 months!

      1. monty75

        Re: "Cortana’s incarnation in a Harman Kardon smart speaker will end"

        My LG TV's main "smart" function now is popping up alerts to tell me which in-built app will no longer be working.

      2. Piro

        Re: "Cortana’s incarnation in a Harman Kardon smart speaker will end"

        It's rather simple.. anything that's called "smart $productname" is definitely the opposite. It's simply something that's going to be obsolete extremely quickly.

        People may scoff at the fact I kicked my "smart TV" off the network and only use a normal PC hooked up to it, but I'm happy that way, it works for me, and I never need to worry about arbitrary support dates.

    2. Spock2

      Re: "Cortana’s incarnation in a Harman Kardon smart speaker will end"

      This sort of thing is why consumers need legal redress / protection. If a device is purchased with a feature, that feature should be available for the life of the product - where "life" is not defined by the vendor (but need not be infinite).

      Tell that to all the people who owned Psion devices running the STNC browser.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile...

    Amazon is pushing Alexa like there is no tomorrow if the deluge of UK TV ads are anything to go by.

    Nice try Bezos but I still ain't gonna install yours or indeed any voice activated spy in my home.

  4. Lee D Silver badge

    Does anyone actually use these things?

    Got a new Samsung phone. First thing I did was turn off Bixby and everything related to it.

    Got a new Windows 10 laptop. First thing I did was turn off Cortana (and get rid of Edge, put a proper start menu, etc.).

    The only thing I ever see people use Siri / Alexa for is to pee about, showing me "how cool" it is to have them sing songs or do tell stupid jokes.

    Does anyone actually use them for anything that wouldn't be quicker to just tap the screen to do anyway?

    1. HundredthIdiot

      Yes

      They are really useful for reminders when cooking, you shout "Echo/Alexa/whatever: set timer for 15 mins", and you're done. Messy hands and all. Music is good too, "play <artist/album/playlist> name" And weather. "Will it rain today?".

      Basically, any number of simple tasks that are inconvenient because your hands are full or dirty.

      Whether that convenience is worth having engineers listening to hopefully anonymised snippets of your private conversations or not is an exercise for the reader.

      In the finest tradition of the Reg someone will point out that pencils work with dirty hands and their Nokia blockia from 1996 still gets 18 days on standby and they know the weather by looking out the window and wasn't everything better when we were 21 and could lick each others faces in public.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes

        Yes, in addition to cooking times we have weight, length conversion, internet radio, really groany jokes, occasionally the news (although Coronavirus has now made this a one note tune), and turning lights on and off (Phillips hue), very handy if you have your hands full (physically I mean).

        To be honest all of your electronic devices are capable of listening to you, regardless of whether you have that function turned on or off.

        So yeah, if you feel nervous about this then use 80's/90's tech (probably easily hackable) or go the Bin Laden route of getting someone to go to internet cafe's to send your emails (for all the good that did him).

        To be honest if you are being watched actively by a Government or big business you probably have bigger issues than worrying about what Alexa is hearing in the average home.

        1. David Nash

          Re: Yes

          "use 80's/90's tech (probably easily hackable)"

          No, because it's not online.

          1. Lee D Silver badge

            Re: Yes

            I use 2020 tech. And turn off the junk.

            Secure, and nothing listening to my every move and me trying ten times to get it to understand "set a timer for 15 minutes" with any accuracy over a bubbling, boiling stove and extractor hood compared to just prodding it with the back end of a wooden spoon and doing it directly (what is that? Three presses? Home button. Clock. Drag timer and hit start?).

            Honestly, I've never had voice recognition work for me at all. I demonstrated this in my brand-new car (voice satnav, now mostly disabled - because it literally couldn't understand "navigate to <major London town" from a car full of people all insisting that if *they* tried it would work first time, no second, no third... okay, you try, smartarse!), with a brand new phone, with any number of desktops, laptops and Chromebooks, a Chromecast, Alexa and Siri.

            I have a mild Cockney accent which *nobody* has trouble understanding - on the phone, in person or however else. Except so-called AI. Which literally has never worked first time for me, and which I grew to realise unless you trained yourself to talk to *it*, then it wouldn't do anything. Honestly... I'll pull over and tap the screen, it's easier than messing about.

            Now translate to those people with speech impedients, background noise, young children, strong accents, etc. etc. etc.

            I give up the second a phone line is automated and wants me to say something for it to recognise nowadays. Not just unnecessary automation but I have been known - especially when demonstrating exactly this to people - to spend 10 minutes trying to get it to recognise one word correctly. Not even *trying* to confuse it, just speaking normally in a variety of tones, speeds, accents, wording, etc.

            Reminds me of the guy who tried to convince the teachers at the schools I work for that they could write all their school reports with Dragon Dictate. He was literally trying to sell it to them all. I suggested they try it first. We never expanded past the trial, and all they had to write was a one-paragaph summary for each child, where the child's name wasn't even required (so no odd proper nouns, etc.). Everyone started at "Isn't this an amazing idea? It'll save us so much time? The demo he gave was fabulous! It looks amazing! Why haven't you ever said to do this before?!" and ended in silence and just sitting typing it themselves manually for the next three years.

            1. Mike01Hu

              Re: Yes

              You give away your age! Ask the next generation what they prefer, we're on our way out, so relax and watch the blinking lights!

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Yes

              "I use 2020 tech. And turn off the junk."

              So you take the device apart, and cut or de-soldered the connections to the mic or camera?

              Setting that little slider switch to "off" doesn't mean the device can't be turned on despite the switch you've set in the OS or app.

            3. MrXavia

              Re: Yes

              I find it faster to type than to dictate, and in car voice recognition is awful, sure my car is old now, but it never worked.... half an hour of trying when driving to get it to set a destination and it could not figure out what I was saying....

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Yes

            "No, because it's not online."

            You are suggesting old phones aren't hackable?, a reasonable number of tabloid journalists have shown this isn't the case since this technology has been around

      2. Spanners Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Yes

        Mine is playing "Dog Calming Music" from Spotify. It seems to do what it says quite nicely.

      3. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Yes

        "any number of simple tasks that are inconvenient because your hands are full or dirty."

        Alexa... Show more porn!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Before the days of lockdown...

      It was fun to walk round the pub saying "Hey Siri, set my alarm for 3am".

    3. Apprentice

      I agree that Bixby is pretty useless on my phone, but I definitely Google Assistant around my home all the time, for controlling lighting, fans and other smart devices, timers, alarms, music selection, fact reference and more.

    4. Dave 126 Silver badge

      I use the third party app BXactions (on Play Store) to remap the Galaxy Bixby button to Flashlight (double tap when phone screen off to activate). I paid a couple of quid for the premium version, and for full functionality you need to connect phone to a PC and execute an EXE file in the BXactiibs folder.

      Actions (start app, record memo, media controls etc) can be assigned to combinations of phone state (locked or unlocked), and short tap, double tap, long press.

      An extra button is a convenience. If Samsung allowed the button to be mapped to any function out of the box, it would be a reason to buy a Samsung phone.

    5. MrXavia

      I use Alexa, smart lighting is great, because I can turn off/dim the lights without getting up. Alexa is great for reminders/news/weather/radio etc....

      Sure I could use a non-voice controlled tech for the same task, and I have some old wifi speakers I still use, but it is much faster to say "Alexa play etc" than it is to get my phone out, open spotify, select the speaker, choose the song etc....

      Conveniance is the key, also apart from the Alexa speakers, all my tech is interchangeable zwave/zigbee, so if any company goes tits up, I can swap it out, my only complaint is that smartthings only works properly online when it has the power to do it all offline....

  5. big_D Silver badge

    This has always been a problem with Microsoft and such products, they get released in the USA, and possibly a couple of other English speaking countries. Then their usage is compared to the global usage of their competitors and the products are canned, because they don't get used, even though they have never been globally released.

    Zune - US sales low, compared to global iPod sales, product canned.

    Band - US sales low, compared to FitBit and Appl Watch global sales, product canned.

    Cortana - US English only on limited devices, usage low compared to global Google Assistant and Alexa usage, product canned.

    What really stood out with Cortana was that it did get some international release in Windows 10, but iOS and Android were US English only, because they didn't have the back-end server infrastructure to cope with an international roll-out (that was the official excuse 3 years ago). Why would they not use the same back-end for all platforms? And, given that Microsoft has Azure, that is a pretty poor excuse.

  6. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Windows

    Microsoft’s decided to restrict the roles its AI assistant Cortana is permitted to fill.

    In other words, they're giving up on Cortana. And having given up they're just restricting it to the only place where there's no other choice, in the hope they can either revive it or someone else will come along with a third party product that enables them to say "Cortana, have you ever seen the film Old Yeller?"

  7. Wade Burchette Silver badge
    Terminator

    Excellent

    << A Saturday support update explains that support for third-party Cortana skills will end in September 2020. Cortana’s iOS and Android apps will suffer the same fate in “early 2021”. >>

    Excellent. A step in the right direction. Next, please remove it from Windows.

    1. Alumoi

      Re: Excellent

      Excellent. A step in the right direction. Next, please remove it from Windows.

      There, fixed it for you!

  8. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
    Mushroom

    ...pointed out that the changes are far from the end for Cortana...

    Surely this is another indicator of the beginning of the end, though. Roll on the end of the end. Then dump these privacy invading, life harvesting "assistants" from other devices.

  9. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    "Alexa...

    ...terminate Cortana."

    1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

      Re: "Alexa...

      ...with extreme prejudice.

  10. Blackjack Silver badge

    RIP Cortana cause Google says so

    That Android and Windows integration? Guess what Google asked as a favor to allow it?

    Google also wants to kill Samsung Assistant.

  11. Apprentice

    Tap tap, "It looks like you're trying to..."

    Never mind Cortana, I want Clippy the paperclip back!

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