Microsoft To Bring Cortana Changes in Spring Windows 10 Update
Microsoft plans to update the user experience associated with its Cortana personal assistant software with the coming spring feature update of Windows 10, according to a Friday announcement.
The aim is to enhance Cortana as a productivity tool. What Microsoft means by enhancing productivity was described as "helping you quickly find the information you want across Microsoft 365." Microsoft 365 is the application suite used by organizations, not consumers, but the announcement did include some changes that will affect Cortana consumer users (i.e., Windows 10 Home edition users).
The Cortana improvements to come will have a few regional variations. Specifically, U.S. users will be able to use Cortana for tasks and calendar scheduling. In contrast, non-U.S. users will get access to Cortana chat and Bing search with the enhancements.
The announcement didn't explain these regional differences. Possibly, it's due to the stronger privacy protections that exist outside the United States with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Microsoft also is planning to require Microsoft account log-ins to use Cortana with the coming spring Windows 10 feature update:
We've tightened access to Cortana so that you must be securely logged in with your work or school account or your Microsoft account before using Cortana, and some consumer skills including music, connected home and third-party skills will no longer be available in the updated Cortana experience in Windows 10.
Exactly why the "music, connected home and third-party skills" Cortana operations will end wasn't explained.
There's also a big change coming for users of Cortana on Android mobile devices. Microsoft plans to turn off "Cortana services in the Microsoft Launcher on Android by the end of April," according to the announcement. No other details or alternatives were described.
If a Windows 10 channel release has hit its end-of-support milestone, support for Cortana will also end, Microsoft indicated. However, that's been Microsoft's standard practice.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Microsoft's announcement was the Microsoft account requirement to use Cortana. It may be a coincidence, but some observers have recently found that Microsoft account creation seems to be a requirement for new Windows 10 installations, although the account can be deleted later. At least, that seems to be the case for Windows 10 Home edition users. The phenomenon was recounted in this Born's Tech and Windows World article.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.