Microsoft Windows latest: Cortana app out, adverts in
Get Help? Yes, we highly recommend it, Redmond
Microsoft on Friday disclosed it will drop support for Cortana as a standalone app in Windows 10 and 11.
In a note to users, the IT giant said this doesn't mean the voice-controlled digital assistant is going away completely, and will still be found in some other Redmond products – just not in Windows 10 and 11 as a standalone application.
"This change only impacts Cortana in Windows, and your productivity assistant, Cortana, will continue to be available in Outlook mobile, Teams mobile, Microsoft Teams display, and Microsoft Teams rooms," the biz explained.
This isn't a surprise at all, in a way, because Microsoft has been cramming Copilot-branded AI-powered functionality into every corner of its empire lately. With Cortana, you can open its app and tell it to run programs, find information, update your calendar... all things that these incoming AI features should be able to handle, making the Smurfette-blue digital assistant a little redundant.
"We know that this change may affect some of the ways you work in Windows," Microsoft continued, "so we want to help you transition smoothly to the new options. 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."
And those tools are: voice-controlled functionality in Windows 11; the updated Bing search engine with its interactive chat-based interface for looking up info; all that Copilot stuff in Microsoft 365, allowing users to create and edit documents among other things using natural-language instructions; and most importantly Windows Copilot, a chat-based interface for controlling the OS and applications.
As we said, all of which makes the Cortana app redundant and ripe for replacement as Microsoft injects OpenAI's GPT family of large language models into its products.
We're told the standalone app support will be ditched in the latter end of this year. Cortana as a personal assistant arrived in 2014 as an answer to Apple's voice-controlled Siri and Google's Google Now, having been plucked from the Halo video game franchise.
Cortana fired and ads hired?
Early last month, Twitter user Albacore, perhaps a persistent pain in Microsoft's side, reported that Redmond was toying with putting in-house ads in Windows 11's Settings panel – and shared screenshots of test builds featuring those very pitches for Microsoft 365 and storage products in the UI.
And now, as documented by GHacks on Friday and confirmed by The Register, some users who go to the Windows 11 Get Help app will see an in-house ad for the software giant's Teams Essentials collaboration suite.
The Get Help support tool is there to help users who are having problems with or questions about the operating system, such as setting up a scanner or fixing Ethernet connections. At the top of the Get Help app interface – above the heading "We're here to help" – is the sentence: "Increase productivity and collaboration all while staying organized, using a new meeting solution designed for small businesses."
Clicking on the "Learn more" link brings the user to the Microsoft Teams Essentials webpage. ($4 per user per month!) Users can thankfully close the ad.
Again, we're not surprised by this development. Redmond has for months been spamming its own banners and promos here and there throughout Windows in hopes of getting more people to subscribe to Microsoft 365 or sign up for various products and services.
- Microsoft Azure CTO believes confidential computing is the future of targeted advertising
- Microsoft slides ads into Windows Insiders' File Explorer
- Mozilla so sorry for intrusive Firefox VPN popup ad
- Microsoft finally gets around to supporting rar, gz and tar files in Windows
In March 2022 it began testing ads in File Explorer, and there were reports eight months later that they could begin showing up in the Windows 11 sign-out menu. In April this year, there was talk from Microsoft of more ads coming to the Start Menu.
In addition, Microsoft in April updated its Weather app to show ads – as well as the MSN news feed – but removed most of that a month later after users revolted.
Reports in early May based on Albacore's tweet about ads coming to the Settings page drew similar derision.
"It's sad and hilarious at the same time," one netizen opined. "The Settings app is what, 10 years old at this point? It STILL is an incoherent mess that barely replaces the good old Control Panel. Shoving ads in there just shows where their priorities are."
Another user wondered whether Microsoft, which has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI to integrate the upstart's GPT technologies into its ecosystem, would use this AI muscle to pick and display third-party ads in the operating system.
"Are GPTs going to devolve into the used car salesman of the tech world?" they asked. "I am sure [Amazon's] Alexa and Google and others are in the same opportunity position."
Users may not like the ads, but don't expect Microsoft to pull them if they help bring in more money.
Microsoft declined to comment. ®