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article imageMicrosoft adds Cortana integration to Skype as part of AI push

By James Walker     Oct 10, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft has added Cortana integration to Skype, letting the assistant offer proactive help while you contact friends and family. Cortana works in a similar way to Google Assistant's integration with Allo, letting you check information and ask questions.
Cortana appears within Skype in two ways. The assistant can be summoned at any time when you're in a conversation, letting you get contextually relevant information. In this mode, Cortana can automatically schedule events you're discussing or find a nearby restaurant if you're looking for food.
The second scenario lets you talk directly to Cortana. Cortana's listed as a Skype bot, so you can ask the assistant questions or engage in a conversation without leaving Skype. This is meant to offer "natural conversations" and a friendly chat feel similar to talking to a human. Cortana can search the web, set reminders, offer movie suggestions or provide local weather information.
Microsoft's persevering in its efforts to become a cloud and AI-focused company. Cortana is an important part of the company's new direction, representing the entrypoint for consumers to interact with its AI. The company doesn't want to miss out on AI in the same way it came too late to mobile, making early user onboarding vital for success.
New Skype mobile app
New Skype mobile app
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The company's expanding the scope of its assistant to include more platforms. Cortana's now available on Windows 10, iOS and Android. Microsoft's also preparing to launch a Cortana-equipped smart speaker in partnership with Harman Kardon. This device will see Microsoft enter the increasingly competitive smart home market, an indication of its commitment to Cortana's future.
Adding Cortana to Skype could introduce more smartphone users to the assistant. It also reduces the risk of current Skype users choosing to switch to a different app that already features assistance, such as Allo with the Google Assistant. Microsoft's not doing anything innovative by adding Cortana to Skype, instead merely consolidating its position as a participant in consumer AI.
"At Skype, we're committed to making your Skype experience even better," said Microsoft. "With Cortana, we've added a powerful, intelligent assistant to help you with your everyday tasks right where you are and save you time." Cortana is rolling out to Skype users in the U.S. on a gradual basis. It's only available in the iOS and Android versions of the app.
The launch follows an unpopular overhaul of the app that reinvented it as a modern consumer-focused Snapchat clone. Although Microsoft has been heavily criticised for the decision, the underlying motivations are now becoming clear. Skype's another way in which Microsoft can expose its AI, the technology that's critical to the future of its business.
More about Microsoft, cortana, digital assistant, digital assistance, Smart home
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