The Microsoft Cortana would be the world's AI sandbag, even if it were mentioned among the efforts of Google, Amazon and Apple. It is not. But even though Cortana was lost in the consumer space as a glorious expert in questionnaires and smart homes, Microsoft still has plans for the assistant.
The recent release of Windows 10 20H1 (18980) for Fast Ring Insiders shows an unexpected change for the company. Cortana is available worldwide, although in English (for now), as the company plans to bring the function to Windows users in the spring of 2020. People have been asking for this since 2015. Even if the company did not have Plans for regionalization of the service seemed to be the least they could do.
So, why the sudden change of mind? The decision may be less an investment and a fundamental change in what Cortana is and will be for Redmond.
Cortana changes are coming
Since Windows Phone was notified, the future of Cortana seemed uncertain. After all, with a default smartphone experience, how and where would Cortana grow?
The change in strategy occurred once Cortana became under the tutelage of the Office team in October 2018. Microsoft's new goal is not Cortana for a typical consumer. -AI helper, but something that unites Microsoft products when combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence. As Andrew Shuman, corporate vice president of Cortana Engineering, told us in May: "Fundamentally Cortana is a fundamental horizontal piece … like Microsoft Account, Microsoft Store, Microsoft Search."
This change to a more localized Cortana experience continues in 2019 with making AI an application and connecting to other endpoints (for example, Microsoft To Do).
Microsoft sees Cortana as a productivity assistant who takes advantage of the deep knowledge gained from users who are holders of a Microsoft account – Outlook, for Do, Microsoft Launcher, Microsoft Translator, OneNote, Edge, Windows 10, Office 365 , LinkedIn and more.
This strategy is something we wrote about in May 2018, even before the Office team finally seized Cortana.  Related is the idea that we can see that the concept of "agent" begins to fade. Although Cortana has a name and even a visual representation, the notion of agents may have been a passing phase in the development of AI. The "material" that drives Cortana (Bing, Microsoft Search, AI and machine learning) is what matters. The front end is only for display and part of the user experience model. (That's why it's always strange when people talk about Cortana being dead. The technology behind this will never disappear, since it's the future of computing for Microsoft.)
Finally, some of these changes are related to removing Cortana from the operating system and converting it into a modularized application that can be dynamically updated through the Microsoft Store.
Cortana is not so much about Bing, more than Office
Ironically, Microsoft does not open Cortana to the world because suddenly it is regionalized or added language support for more countries. In fact, there is no evidence that it happened even though it was supposedly the original robbery. (However, Microsoft said they "will share more details of our language deployment plans as they go along.")
Instead, what seems to be happening is that Cortana is changing from that web search assistant that everything Google knows and Amazon have almost perfected something that is based on local information. The strength of Microsoft is what is on your computer and connected to your Microsoft account.
Due to the lower dependence on Bing and its related experiences, Cortana can be an AI of productivity. Cortana can, and will have, access to your calendar, contacts, tasks, your Windows 10 timeline, Edge browsing history, shopping habits, Skype calls, LinkedIn contacts and general preferences. Those are things that Amazon and Google do not have access to, since they are not native applications in Windows 10, nor do they connect to Office 365. In addition, Microsoft can do so in a way that meets the information to satisfy businesses, from Again, something that Amazon and Google cannot achieve.
To the consumer, all this may seem trivial. But from the perspective of Microsoft (and success with Windows 10 and Office 365), think of all the data that you have access for those who use a PC and have LinkedIn. The ability for AI to take advantage of that information to better help with working life is something that nobody has done yet.
Google, Amazon and especially Apple are positioned to help you with Spotify, turn on the lights and order diapers, or by random trivia. What these systems are not very good is to be useful for solving problems. (Google, however, has some influence here due to the proliferation of Google services such as Android and Gmail.)
One could lament endlessly for Microsoft's failures in smartphones, which then killed Cortana's original hopes. But the company seems to be doing what it has recently done in all other areas: leverage its strengths .
In essence, Microsoft is not a consumer brand. It is a computer company that manufactures software and services. The deepest expressions of that are Windows, Office, LinkedIn, Skype and the recent variety of applications on Android and iOS. Building Cortana around those experiences versus trying to be something, is not only the right move for Microsoft, but also its only move.
Regardless of the reasons, however, it is good news that more users will soon be able to use Cortana on Windows 10.