Microsoft Guts Cortana’s Features, Removes Her From Local Accounts

Microsoft has announced new changes to Cortana coming in the next version of Windows 10, and you probably won’t like them if you use any of the service’s consumer-facing features. Those of you who dislike Cortana and prefer to rely on accounts, however, are getting good news. After the next Windows update, Microsoft will only allow Cortana to run if you have a Microsoft account — which means those of us without them won’t have to put up with it any longer.

I’m not sure the company has completely thought this through. While Microsoft is making it harder and harder to create a Local Account — you have to disconnect your PC from the internet if you want the option to appear during startup — they’ve never given anyone a feature-based reason to create one. The company may think it’s locking a capability behind a Microsoft account, but from my perspective, it’s adding features to having a local one.

Going Forward, Cortana is a Business-Only Feature

If you actually use Cortana for personal projects or PC control, however, we do have bad news. According to Microsoft:

Some consumer skills including music, connected home and third-party skills will no longer be available in the updated Cortana experience in Windows 10. We’re also making some changes to where Cortana helps you. As part of our standard practice, we are ending support for Cortana in older versions of Windows that have reached their end-of-service dates. We recommend that customers update their devices to the latest version of Windows 10 to continue using Cortana. We’ll also be turning off the Cortana services in the Microsoft Launcher on Android by the end of April.

Cortana will still be able to set reminders.

In other words, there’s not going to be a way to keep access to these consumer-focused capabilities. Microsoft is beefing up the application, but the improvements are all going into the business side. The feature will be capable of handling searches (local or Bing), checking your calendar, setting reminders, and creating to-do lists. It will also “help you get answers from Bing, set alarms and timers, open apps, adjust settings, or give you a joke you can share with colleagues, friends or family.”

This is a further pare back of the features Cortana used to offer, but it’s been clear that Microsoft didn’t really have any interest in competing with Amazon or Google for quite some time. I never liked the way Cortana was forcefully integrated into search, but I thought Microsoft’s work in the home assistant market would help drive the space forward. The search assistant may continue to evolve as a business feature, but her consumer time is clearly over.

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