Just because Cortana may be getting separated from the Windows 10 search bar doesn't mean it's dead. While it may not have the same ubiquity as Amazon's Alexa or Apple's Siri, Microsoft still sees a place for Cortana in the future of work, as evidenced by a video demo it shared today at Build, its developer conference here in Seattle.
Microsoft has been discussing intelligent "agents" in the form of chatbots and intelligent assistants for years.
CEO Satya Nadella said assistants aren't "multi-turn," and that context is lost, and that you need to know commands by name. And he suggested that we need an "open assistant future" without single wake words.
In the video, a woman talks to her phone (notably an iPhone) to reschedule and schedule meetings in Outlook, with the assistant understanding who to invite based on first names, titles and pronouns. It sent messages, got directions and provided weather -- nothing too out of the ordinary. But the assistant took a ton of instructions across a number of Microsoft services and APIs. The user never specifically said "Cortana" either.
This could mean that in the future there will be a platform-agnostic business assistant to manage calendars, send emails and manage your contacts, like a cloud-based executive assistant for everyone.
Almost a year ago, Microsoft acquired Semantic Machines (opens in new tab) to bolster its efforts in Cortana and conversational artificial intelligence, so this preview is the first we've seen in terms of what that team has been working on.