The May 2020 update has arrived, and a notable change is Microsoft Cortana. If you used to ask questions of the virtual assistant, it may be time to switch to another assistant. Microsoft decided to turn Cortana into a productivity tool, eliminating many of the features that you might have been used to. The big question – is Cortana still worth using for the average user?
Why the change?
Even if some users love Microsoft Cortana, it has never really taken precedence over Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. Instead of investing more time and money to try to compete, Microsoft has chosen to turn Cortana into a system application over the full system integration that the wizard had before.
Microsoft Cortana becomes an application
Cortana is no longer married to the taskbar. Instead, Cortana is a regular application. This means that you will open and interact with Cortana as you would with other apps. You will even get updates through the Microsoft Store instead of Windows Update. You’ll also be able to update Cortana without having to also install full system feature updates.
Search already separated
A common question users ask themselves is how to find files. When Cortana was first introduced in Windows 10, you either asked Cortana to find a file using your voice, or entered it in the Cortana search box on the taskbar. However, Research and Cortana were separated long before the May 2020 update.
New Capabilities of Microsoft Cortana
Microsoft now calls Cortana a “personal productivity assistant.” According to Microsoft official announcement, Cortana’s new capabilities include:
- Chat-based interaction – Voice control is still an option, but the chat-based user interface gives you the ability to type rather than speak to your computer. It’s actually a good thing if you use Cortana in the office.
- Manage your calendar and schedule – After logging into your Microsoft account, connect your calendar and calendar to Cortana. Add items, get reminders and check things off.
- Integration with Microsoft Teams – If you are using Microsoft Teams, use Cortana to join meetings, view upcoming meetings and book meetings.
- Integration into work and school – Using your Microsoft work or school accounts, request more details about other members of your organization.
- Create lists – Productivity being the main objective, Cortana is able to create lists and give you reminders so that you don’t forget anything.
Although Microsoft Cortana is not as functional as before, you can still ask it a few questions. Some extras that Cortana can do include:
- provide weather information
- answer simple questions
- provide news headlines
- open applications and settings
What is missing
In many ways, Cortana is still a virtual assistant. However, the app now focuses on productivity. You will no longer be able to control smart home devices. Even if music can be useful with productivity, you won’t be able to use Cortana to control your music either. Instead, you’ll use Cortana to connect to other Microsoft apps and services, such as Office 365.
If you still want to control smart home devices and do everything Cortana did and more, you can download Alexa from the Microsoft Store. You will then have a full-fledged virtual assistant on your desktop or laptop computer.
How do users feel?
Based on the 2.6 star rating at the time of writing, users are not happy with the change. In fact, the general consensus is that Cortana is not at all useful.
However, if you’ve mainly used Cortana for work, like opening Microsoft apps and managing your calendar, you may not notice much difference. For the average user, Cortana is no longer as useful as it was before the May 2020 update.
That said, try the new version. If you don’t like it, it can be removed with a little effort. Or, if you don’t want to install it, just log out of Cortana to stop using it altogether.
If you’ve already tried the new Microsoft Cortana, share your thoughts in the comments.
Image credit: Flickr / Bolly Holly Baba
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