back to article Cortana. Whatever happened to world domination?

Somewhat harshly, Microsoft's Cortana was pronounced dead this week. Torn between wholesaling and retailing Cortana, Microsoft ended up doing a bit of both, and failed badly. It's also torn between what the brand actually means – an Alexa voice assistant, or an IBM Watson-like brand for analytics, covering a multitude of …

  1. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    It would be negligent not to point out what a great thing Microsoft has squandered.

    Microsoft has a habit of squandering good things, and pushing mediocre (and sometimes bad) ones quite hard. This isn't a new thing, either, it's been like this for ages. In fact, I can't even remember when it started...

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      They can get savvy boffins...

      ...but for some reason that can't get savvy business development or marketing people. Considerign thatt hery have squillions of dollars to spend, WHY?!?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Microsoft has a habit of squandering good things"

      Symptomatic of a tech company driven by marketspeak/PR people, instead of the engineers where true innovation is found.

      Sooner or later the marketspeak/PR people get bored or distracted, they lose focus.

    3. annodomini2 Bronze badge
      Devil

      Microsoft has a habit of squandering good things, and pushing mediocre (and sometimes bad) ones quite hard. This isn't a new thing, either, it's been like this for ages. In fact, I can't even remember when it started...

      Turd Polishers justifying their existence...

    4. Danny 5

      Nadella

      It's gotten much, much worse since the new boss started to put his mark on the company though.

      The man simply doesn't have a long term vision, he's only out for the quick buck to keep shareholders happy. Under him, Microsoft has gone down the drain.

    5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      can't even remember when it started...

      OS/2. A decent collaboration between IBM and Microsoft that ended with Microsoft deciding to concentrate on Windows 3..

      (And it's no suprise that the programmer API for NT 3.5 was remarkably alike to the OS/2 API..)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was really excited by Cortana when it was first leaked... then I tried it... then they banned other search engines...

    It's not even convenient. In the time that it takes to check the weather I could do the same thing in Firefox, which is far more likely to be on hand.

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Not just Cortana...

      It's not even convenient. In the time that it takes to check the weather I could do the same thing in Firefox, which is far more likely to be on hand.

      To be fair that is applicable to all Voice Assistants, not just Cortana

    2. Spock2

      I just look out of the window.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        I just stay in.

    3. Ilsa Loving

      Poor first impression

      My first introduction to Cortana was when I tried asking it a question... and it promptly locked up the entire user interface and the only way to get out was to ctrl-alt-delete and log out of the machine (or reboot). I tried it several more times with consistent results.

      So I disabled it and never used it again.

  3. JohnFen Silver badge

    I know what it is

    " Now nobody knows what it is."

    I dunno, it's pretty obvious what it is: an attempt to put a humanizing face on an incredibly invasive spy infrastructure.

    1. elDog Silver badge

      Re: I know what it is

      Along with the other telemetry.

      That's really the reason I try not to use these great "features" bundled into my OS or browser (or weight scale, telephone, toilet).

      I just KNOW that someone is reading my habits and my weight and my dumps.

      1. m0rt Silver badge

        Re: I know what it is

        " just KNOW that someone is reading my habits and my weight and my dumps."

        Wait...you shit literature?

        1. Mongrel

          Wait...you shit literature?

          Well, it seems to work for Dan Brown

          1. DJV Silver badge

            @Mongrel

            +1! Excellent!

            The ability of Reg commentards to make me spit drink over my keyboard is one of the reasons I keep coming back here!

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: I know what it is

      put a humanizing face on an incredibly invasive spy infrastructure

      Like all voice assistants. Once they get to be locally executed I might start to get interested.

  4. adam payne Silver badge

    It would be negligent not to point out what a great thing Microsoft has squandered.

    Microsoft make things and then seem to be unsure of what they actually want to do with them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Microsoft has an identity crisis.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinect#Sales

      1. ThomH Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft has an identity crisis.

        Speaking anecdotally, the problem with the Kinect was: it isn't fun. Every title I played pretty much controlled itself while I attempted vainly to impart some sort of input. I'm not a fan of the franchise so perhaps that colours my judgement, but the Star Wars XBox 360 pack-in was the worst that I tried. It had a racing segment in which I discovered that as long as I held my arms in front of me, the vehicle would successfully complete a lap. Turning them sometimes made a difference, sometimes didn't.

        So it was very similar to the Youtube experience of watching somebody else play a game, except that I wasn't allowed to sit down.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Microsoft has an identity crisis.

          I think I got one for the kids, for Christmas just after the release. It was on eBay by February, having only used it a few times before the new year.

          Great technology, shit for console games.

    2. King Jack Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Microsoft make things and then seem to be unsure of what they actually want to do with them

      Too true. Take the Kinect, If they had just opened the thing to everyone instead of locking it down, they would be riding high on a new revenue stream. They are more interested in absolute control rather than making things that everyone wants to use because they are good. As it is everything they make is shit and must be avoided at all costs. Spying is the new reason to make anything these days. Ramming stuff down people's throats only works for so long.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Turns out people didn't want Cortana to 'learn more about them'... it's creepy.

    Also, Windows Mobile is dead, and very few like to use a Microsoft account on Windows 10 to 'sync' and use Cortana.

  6. sawatts

    Apparently none of the microphones attached to my PC were ever compatible with Cortina^B^B^Bana anyway.

    1. Zippy's Sausage Factory

      Cortina is Portuguese for curtain.

      Somehow that feels appropriate because it looks like curtains for Cortana fairly soon...

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Cortina^B^B^Bana

      Having owned a (pre-disastered) Ford Cortina I can see the resemblance:

      Handles like the suspension is made of marshmallow, bits drop off at the slightest opportunity and the whole thing leaks fuel and is only one spark away from firey death..

  7. Anonymous IV
    Thumb Down

    Standard action - turn Cortana off...

    ... on any new Windows 10 box, remove all the tiles, run ShutUp10, then...

    Follow by getting rid of all the non-Microsoft cr*pware which the manufacturer has 'helpfully' installed for the user.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Standard action - turn Cortana off...

      Except the advert apps, you can't just uninstall those because it'll just redownload them. You have to block the URLs in your HOSTS file first. Even that will only block a few of them since some of the URLs mask more than one IP address.

      0.0.0.0 localhost

      0.0.0.0 spclient.wg.spotify.com

      0.0.0.0 candycrushsoda.king.com

      0.0.0.0 bubblewitch3mobile.king.com

      0.0.0.0 a122.dscg3.akamai.net

      0.0.0.0 c-0001.c-msedge.net

      0.0.0.0 db5-dspcdn.tlu.dl.delivery.mp.microsoft.com

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Standard action - turn Cortana off...

        http://someonewhocares.org/hosts/

    2. Smoking Man

      Re: Standard action - turn Cortana off...

      Remove tiles and cr*ware, run ShutUp10.., and, on notebooks, put some duct tape on the camera.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Linux

      Re: Standard action - turn Cortana off...

      My initial configuration routine is a single step.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Standard action - turn Cortana off...

        My initial configuration routine is a single step.

        "format c: /y"?

        Or "boot from linux USB and install"?

    4. Chris King Silver badge

      Re: Standard action - turn Cortana off...

      Also, take a look at Alex Hirsch's Powershell code to "debloat" Windows 10:

      https://github.com/W4RH4WK/Debloat-Windows-10

      Some of this stuff is pretty extreme, but being able to kill apps you can't uninstall by normal means sounds good to me !

  8. DonatelloNobatti

    No platform

    Alexa sits in a small $40 hockey puck shaped device on my kitchen counter. If I were to use Cortana, where would I use it? Turn on the desktop in my office? Keep a laptop running on my counter? Now that the Windows phone is gone, I can't use that.

    The genius in Alexa is the small, inexpensive device. Amazon got there with the goods first, so it's too late for others to catch up.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Alexa puck

      "Alexa order me a six pound hammer"

      "I'm sorry Dave. I think you are buying that to do damage to me."

      "No Alexa, I'm ordering it to kill myself."

      "Order accepted. Delivery will be in 60 minutes by drone. Please stand outside in order to recieve the package."

      Doh!

      Seriously, how do you know that your Alexa device is not spying on your every move including that little trip to the fridge at 02:48 this morning.... :) :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Alexa puck

        "Seriously, how do you know that your Alexa device is not spying on your every move including that little trip to the fridge at 02:48 this morning.... :) :)"

        I've run checks on my local network to ensure that no extraneous data is being sent to Amazon, and there's no spikes at times where I don't call it by name to indicate anything is sent except for that which I expect. I also subscribe to a number of security focused groups who would immediately tell me if any of the paranoia was justified with me noticing.

        Sorry if that's not the answer you wanted for but for me personally, I'd be more worried about what that bloated, virus-ridden mess of a Windows computer you're using is doing with or without Cortana than I am about the Echo device.

        1. Ilsa Loving

          Re: Alexa puck

          "I've run checks on my local network to ensure that no extraneous data is being sent to Amazon, and there's no spikes at times where I don't call it by name to indicate anything is sent except for that which I expect.

          This sounds like a blog article needing to be written. I've refused to get one for similar paranoid reasons as others have mentioned, but if demonstrated to behave in a reasonable manner, then maybe it's worth greater consideration.

      2. DonatelloNobatti

        Re: Alexa puck

        I wear a tinfoil hat.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No platform

      No the genious in Alexa is getting people to accept a live microphone in their home.

      1. desht

        Re: No platform

        Not just accept it but gladly pay for it too. It'll go down as the greatest scam in history.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "The genius in Alexa is the small, inexpensive device."

      ACtually the supposed "Genius" is the umpteen processor server farm sitting behind that broadband linked microphone that's meant to make sense of what you just spouted.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should have seen this coming

    Cortana was most useful on a mobile device. Microsoft is dead in mobile.

    A significant use case for mobile assistants is recognising or playing music. Since Microsoft axed Groove streaming, Cortana has lost its ability to recognise music.

    They ought to rename Microsoft HAL. The slow death of this company is heart-breaking / hilarious take your pick.

    Reckon there'll be a few more Microsoft shut-downs. Moving out of the OS market one day? After all, they're the third ecosystem after Android and Apple .

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Should have seen this coming

      To be fair, Cortana incorporates some great technologies. But without a market to want it, it is dead in the water. Microsoft never found that market, because Apple and Google beat it to Mobile space (as noted), Amazon beat it to home appliance space, Microsoft couldn't think of a killer app in desktop space and of course who needs it in server space. IMHO it is desperately needed for automated supermarket checkout, but where's the glamour in that?

    2. elDog Silver badge

      Re: Should have seen this coming

      HALirious, then?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Funny Pic.

    Reminds me of this one:

    http://images.amcnetworks.com/ifc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/hal-9000-2001-a-space-odyssey.jpg

  11. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Wahahahahaha

    Ahahahahahaha

    -ex OS/2 user

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      -ex OS/2 user

      It would be nice if IBM wrote a version of WPS for linux - I'd use that as a GUI in a heartbeat..

      (Gnome is OK but relies on systemd and so is a non-starter. KDE is (last time I used it) just not good enough. I've never tried Mate/Cinnamon)

      1. solv

        How is KDE not good enough?

        It has umpteen more features and a gazillion times more configurable options than gnome has....

        Maybe if you tried it duing it's transition phase to KDE4 7 or 8 years ago then that could explain it.

        Try the latest kdubuntu or KDE neon...it's known as Plasma Desktop now anyway

  12. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    First WinMo, now Cortana... Hopefully Windows will be next.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No. Microsoft is too stupid to kill off Windows.

      On purpose, anyway.

  13. Not also known as SC Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Somewhat harshly, Microsoft's Cortana was pronounced dead this week.

    You had my hopes up then that the stupid voice assistant was being removed from Windows. From the rest of the article am I right to think they have just discontinued the name? Not every one wants a personal assistant on their PC.

  14. Terry 6 Silver badge

    It was really useful to me,briefly

    I had a Winphone. And with Cortana it talked to my Honda's handsfree. I could say "message x" and it would let me dictate a text message, or "read message" and it would do that, via the car's bluetooth.

    But my Winphone is consigned to the drawer. And with it my ability to send and receive texts in the car.

    Two Microsoft technologies that I was willing to use. Both gonners.

    1. cambsukguy

      Re: It was really useful to me,briefly

      My WinPhone still talks to my car, just as well, or better, than it did when I bought it so I don't see the issue.

      Until it no longer operates that is. Still hoping for a Surface Phone/PC some day before that, Fingers crossed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It was really useful to me,briefly

        I like how you got 2 down votes (so far) saying you are happy with what you have and have no reason to change it.

        Oh MS, forgot, fanboys irrational hate of what they don't agree with.

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    'Twas ever so when they don't have the (not a) desktop monopoly* behind them.

    Then MS face actual competition.

    And some of it's quite tough.

    And prepared to play a waiting game.

    And won't put up with their usual s**t.

    *Which as we all know are illegal in the US.

  16. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    WTF?

    "cleverness by Microsoft"

    Now THAT is an oxymoron if I've ever heard one.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: "cleverness by Microsoft"

      Now THAT is an oxymoron if I've ever heard one.

      Oh I dunno - they are quite good at buying cleverness. Of course, by the time the aquisition is complete the cleverness has been homeopathically diluted by the Microsoft Water[1] of Stupidity..

      [1] Which almost certainly *does* have a memory. Unlike real water..

  17. Joe Gurman

    I thought....

    ....Cortana was a pretty cool character in the Halo series. Did Microsoft exploit its failed marriage with Bungee for something else? Oh, I see.

    1. Richard 81

      Re: I thought....

      You mean "pretty cool character in the Halo series that became increasingly naked as the series went on".

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: I thought....

        became increasingly naked as the series went on

        This is bad how?

  18. 0laf Silver badge
    Facepalm

    MS likes to kill its kids doesn't it.

    WinPho8 was actually pretty good at what it did, but MS couldn't quite be bothered to put the effort in to compete so it died.

    Now Cortana, admittedly I pretty much hate all of these assistants but at least Cortana would read out my texts in the car by shouting at her. Siri won't.

    Then there was Zune

    How many abortive projects has MS had over the years? They must have pissed billions up the wall.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      How many abortive projects has MS had over the years

      Pretty much everything other than Windows (all types) and Office.

  19. Richard 81

    Cortana?

    You mean that thing that I go into the registry to permanently disable as soon as possible?

  20. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Cortana = sexed and souped up version of Clippy?

  21. Rob Moir

    Microsoft have done this countless times. "Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" should be their new mission statement.

    If nothing else, I'd say the "cortana" brand has also been massively harmed by association with the pathetic windows 10 search.

  22. Patrician

    The issue with Cortana is/was that the only time a "digital assistant is of any use is on a mobile phone or maybe a tablet; why they though anyone would want to talk to their PC rather than use the perfectly good keyboard that is attached to it boggles my mind. Can you imagine the cacophony of an office full of people trying to use Cortana at the same time?

    Once Windows Phone was dead so was Cortana.

  23. Big_Boomer

    Voice Assistant

    I have used Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Now and am wholly underwhelmed. A friend who was given an Alexa for Xmas spends more time shouting "ALEXA **** OFF!" than actually asking it for info. I'm pretty certain it will be on Fleabay shortly.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Voice Assistant

      I'm moderately chuffed with mine. It's connected to my hue lights and hive heating, which makes it marginally more useful.

      If only it was better at understanding phrasing - it's voice recognition is quite good, but it doesn't do well with synonyms and you have to remember exactly what command to give.

      Eg: "Turn on Spring Blossom in the living room", or "turn the light off" works well. "Tell Morrisons to add toothpaste to my shopping list" doesn't. "...to my basket" ( I think it is ) does.

  24. ecofeco Silver badge

    The 3 Es again

    Embrace. Extend. Extinguish.

    Now lets see how many downvotes I get from the citizens of De Nile.

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