Microsoft is axing many of Cortana's consumer features as it pivots to productivity

The smart assistant is embedding itself in applications like Excel while ditching smart home, music functionality.

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The writing has been on the wall for some time now, but today Microsoft is making it crystal clear: Cortana is no longer a general-purpose assistant like Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa. The company announced in a blog post that its smart assistant is losing support for music, smart home, and third-party skills. The move comes as Microsoft embeds Cortana in its suite of productivity applications.

Cortana has always been a marginal player — Against the likes of Alexa and Google Assistant — both of which benefit from being embedded in strong ecosystems of smartphones and voice-activated speakers, whereas Cortana is mostly limited to Windows PCs. Using a smart assistant in a desktop environment makes less sense considering the most common uses cases of general-purpose assistants are tasks like asking for directions and searching for a quick fact, both of which would be faster to just type into Google.

Cortana is becoming a strictly-business tool — Microsoft has slowly been creating business applications for Cortana. For instance, in Outlook, Cortana can check your colleagues' calendars and help schedule a meeting for you. In Excel, you can ask Cortana to return insights from your spreadsheets without needing to manually create a formula yourself. It also offers speech-to-text and translation services in Teams, Microsoft's corporate collaboration platform akin to Slack.

Cortana isn't popular on desktops and it has no presence in the home or on mobile. Considering practically the whole enterprise world runs on Microsoft apps, embedding it in the company's business applications is the best possible way to put Cortana's smarts to use at this point.

Microsoft has already killed off Cortana's iOS and Android apps, and the company says it will remove the smart assistant from versions of Windows 10 that have reached their end of support, which includes several versions of the desktop OS.