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article imageReport: Microsoft rethinking Cortana's role in Windows 10

By James Walker     Jan 16, 2018 in Technology
Microsoft is planning to move Cortana into a redesigned Action Center panel on Windows 10. The digital assistant will be reworked around conversations, similarly to Google Assistant, as Microsoft aims to increase adoption of the feature.
Over the past year, there have been several rumours that Microsoft is planning a drastic overhaul of Cortana's interface. In a new report this week, Windows Central claimed the assistant will be relocated to Windows 10's Action Center notification tray. Citing "sources familiar with the matter," the site claimed Microsoft will make several other changes to the Windows 10 core UI at the same time.
Cortana currently resides in a dedicated search box next to the Start button. The interface is primarily used for searching Windows content, which is also one of Cortana's most criticised features. Microsoft will now separate the components out again, creating a dedicated interface for Windows Search and alleviating Cortana of some of "her" desktop responsibilities.
Cortana's already got a growing role in managing Windows 10 notifications. Features added in the past year have introduced new kinds of notification that are powered by Cortana. These include the ability to reopen apps and documents when you switch devices and the addition of more proactive Cortana capabilities. From a usability standpoint, moving Cortana into the Action Center will consolidate the user experience into a single location.
At the same time it adds Cortana to Action Center, Microsoft will also remove one of the panel's primary features. It will position Action Center's "Quick Actions" settings toggles into a new dedicated Control Center, likely accessed with a settings icon in the system area. Microsoft inadvertently posted an image of this interface last year before removing the screenshot.
Cortana and Alexa will collaborate together
Cortana and Alexa will collaborate together
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The report comes as Cortana is widely seen to be losing out in the rapidly developing digital assistance wars. Despite Microsoft promising more devices are on the way, Cortana's ecosystem is now clearly far behind that of Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant. Alexa boasts more than 25,000 third-party "skills" while Cortana claims just 230.
While a UI overhaul won't singlehandedly solve Cortana's problems, it could go a long way to encouraging user adoption. By consolidating the assistant's focus and encouraging chat-based communication, Microsoft will put itself on a stronger footing to resume active development.
Any launch of the interface is still a long way off though – Windows Central claimed it should arrive with Windows 10's "Redstone 5" update this fall. In the interim, Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri will only extend their lead over Cortana.
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