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Image credit: Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Microsoft will shut down the Cortana iOS and Android apps in 2021

It will also remove the digital assistant from Harman Kardon Invoke speakers.
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Harmon Kardon Invoke
Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

We already knew Cortana’s days as a consumer-facing digital assistant were numbered after Microsoft said earlier this year it would remove the AI from its Android launcher app. But the company has now detailed additional cuts that users are likely to feel more keenly.

The changes won't happen all at once. To start, Microsoft will end support for third-party Cortana skills on September 7th, 2020. In early 2021, Microsoft then plans to discontinue the Cortana apps on iOS and Android, as well as remove the current Cortana functionality the first-generation Surface Headphones feature. Sometime in early 2021, Harman Kardon Invoke speakers will lose access to the digital assistant as well. 

Microsoft's plan for Invoke speakers is likely to cause the most resentment. The company will push a firmware update to the smart device to turn it into a Bluetooth speaker. "The firmware update will be delivered automatically to devices connected to WiFi within six months of its release," the company said. 

As an olive branch to Invoke owners, Microsoft plans to send them $50 gift cards. To be eligible, you'll have to have used your Invoke speaker to ask something of Cortana between July 31st and before today's announcement.   

As mentioned above, Microsoft also plans to remove the current iteration of Cortana from its first-generation Surface Headphones in early 2021. Once the change goes through, you'll still be able to use the digital assistant, but only through the integration that comes with Outlook Mobile. First-generation Surface Headphones owners can get a $25 gift card.

"We've spent a lot of time thinking through this transition and understand that these changes may be disruptive to some of our customers," the company said. 

As The Verge points, the changes mark another step in Cortana reinvention as a productivity-focused digital helper. Cortana isn't going away, but Microsoft is tweaking the software to better compliment apps like Outlook and Teams. In doing so, the company likely hopes to carve out a niche for the digital assistant away from the likes of Assistant and Alexa. Of course, all of that is small consolation if you bought into the company's original vision for Cortana.   

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