First Click: Cortana is Microsoft's secret mobile weapon


Google’s Toolbar app launched more than 15 years ago as a convenient way to directly access the search engine from within Internet Explorer. Over the years it served as a Trojan Horse to convince Internet Explorer users to use Google search and other Google services, and eventually install Chrome to fully replace Internet Explorer. It was Google’s weapon to win the web away from Microsoft’s IE browser domination.

Cortana is slowly emerging as Microsoft's secret mobile weapon. While the software giant hasn't fared well with its Windows Phone operating system, Cortana is key to Microsoft's mobile future. Microsoft appears to be taking a similar approach to Google with its Toolbar app. At the Build developer conference last week, the message was clear: Microsoft wants Cortana to be everywhere.

Cortana will help power Microsoft's new bot platform, showing up in Skype to help you talk to bots, schedule meetings, and generally digitally manage your life. Elsewhere, Cortana will be required to enable Android phone notifications to show up on Windows 10 PCs. Cortana was always designed to be web-based, and now Microsoft is taking advantage of that platform to ensure the digital assistant can make its way into apps it offers across multiple platforms.

Microsoft even showed off Cortana managing calendars within the built-in Outlook mail app for Windows 10. It's reasonable to assume that the same Cortana features will make their way to the Android and iOS apps eventually, as Microsoft wants a similar codebase and features across its Office apps. That's really where Cortana starts to get interesting. Baking Cortana into Outlook, Word, Excel, Skype, and other popular apps across Windows, iOS, and Android will only increase Cortana usage.

If Microsoft can convince people with iPhones and Android phones to use Cortana for even the most basic tasks like talking to bots in Skype, it starts to build a reliance and familiarity around the digital assistant. It took Google years to convince Internet Explorer users to switch to Chrome, but the Toolbar eventually helped push people towards Google search. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has discussed the importance of Cortana on multiple occasions, and the idea of the digital assistant being everywhere is clearly Microsoft's big bet at winning back some mobile relevance. We didn't hear much about Windows Phone at Build, but we're bound to hear a lot more about Cortana over the coming year ahead. Cortana will be everywhere.

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Cortana GIF