Microsoft is bringing Cortana to Outlook for iOS and Android

Cortana in Outlook for iOS
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

Microsoft has been slowly adding more email intelligence to its Cortana digital assistant, but it has resisted integrating it directly into Outlook mobile. That’s about to change, soon. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s Outlook plans tell The Verge that the company is currently testing Cortana within Outlook on iOS and Android.

The Cortana integration will allow users of the popular mobile email client to listen to and respond to emails with their voice. This will be particularly useful during car journeys, and Microsoft is testing Cortana integration directly within Outlook mobile that will work over Bluetooth and read messages aloud. Users will be able to ask Cortana phrases like “what’s my email,” or just to read messages from specific contacts.

Microsoft is currently testing its Cortana integration internally, and if the feedback is positive then the feature should make its way to beta and public releases of Outlook for iOS and Android. News of Cortana integration in Outlook comes just weeks after Microsoft’s Outlook for iOS and Android boss transitioned to overseeing the Cortana digital assistant. Javier Soltero, who first joined Microsoft when the software maker acquired the Acompli email app, will report to Harry Shum, Microsoft’s head of AI and research.


Oh good, now there’ll be 3 digital assistants on my phone: Assistant, Bixby, and Cortana.


And soon you’ll have even Alexa

I guess, technically, she’s in the Amazon app.

something something xkcd standards comic

I will start off by saying the idea is cool, and I think it will help get us to the next step of computing where we don’t necessarily need to look at screens. However, Microsoft is in a really weird position in the market for something like this. They don’t have a mobile platform anymore, where I could see this making the most sense. I could imagine walking down the street with headphones in and getting an email and Cortana notifying me of that and then reading the email, but I know that’s not going to happen on iOS. Maybe on Android. It doesn’t make sense on the desktop/laptop/tablet because then I’d just read it there. Maybe on a smart speaker, but again, who are they working with to make that happen?

It’s a shame, because I think Microsoft has cool ideas, but they have no real way to get them to people. I mean, maybe Cortana can pop up while I’m using my Xbox and let me know I have an email. But that’s literally the last place I want an email notification.

In my day this functionality was called a phone call. The person could connect to you directly and you could talk in real time, back and forwards. This newer approach of talking to a digitial assistant who writes it all down and emails it to someone for their digital assistant to then read it aloud for them seems like a much more efficient solution.

At least it’s generating jobs for the assistants.

That’s how it worked in my day, and I hated it. I love people, but I don’t want to talk to them all the time. Anything somebody says to me on a phone call I’m going to forget as soon as I hang up, least I hunt down some paper and a pen to take notes. Let me talk to a virtual assistant in some persistant chat app and be done with it.

I’m a fan of the phone call. However, I will say, it tends to not be great in my line of work. People are snakes these days, and just because someone said something or agreed to something over the phone, doesn’t mean that’s what they’re going to do. And then you have no recourse. That along with the fact that everyone is more connected than ever these days, but somehow harder to get a hold makes me a fan, of what seems to be coming up as the modern day voicemail. With echos you can leave voice messages for people. And I think that’s kind of cool. It would be great in business, because you would have a record of it. And I like it for personal use because I don’t know if someone is in the middle of something when I’m about to call them. But I could leave them a message along the lines of hey, give me a call when you get a chance, and if they’re not busy they can call you then, or if they are, they can call you later.

… but why?

Outlook is mainly a business product so this is probably targeting on-the-go professionals that need to stay up to date when they don’t have the ability to read messages.

For those of us who are business owners or in business and often on the road for hours at a time, this will be GREAT – that’s why. Believe it or not, Outlook is still HEAVILY used in corporate environments and will be for quite some time.

However any person who uses O365/Exchange mail and has an Android phone should be using Nine instead of Outlook.

Microsoft: Bigger and Bloatier. For ever. Making sure that each update to a single app is at least 500mb and counting.

Seriously, this is just going to bloat a perfectly functioning mail app. Outlook on Mac is big and bloated already. The iOS app was streamlined in comparison. They just can’t leave things alone, more functionality means more teams of under-trained code-monkeys adding bloat in every area. Then increasing your download sizes.

And how does this "bloat" affect you other than slightly increasing the size of the app?

Guess I’ll need to find a new email client for my work email…. Great….

Now you’re going to have iPhone users saying stuff like:

"Hey Siri, open Outlook………Cortana What’s my email?"

I am actually looking forward to a future where my digital assistants can talk to each other. The fact they don’t already is mind boggling to me.

Amazon and Microsoft announced last year that Cortana and Alexa would be able to talk to each other…not sure where they are with those plans.


Now fix the shitty search function on Android.

Also, would be nice to integrate into SwiftKey.

A good idea, but feels like Microsoft is once again at least 2-3 years late to the party.

One thing I that I really miss going from windows mobile to Android is the ability for the phone to read and send text messages using voice commands (receiving a text, Cortana asking if it should be read out loud, reply by voice, confirming the message and then send by voice).

Beyond Outlook, I hope Microsoft brings Cortana to a messaging app in the future.

That is the number one thing I miss on Windows Mobile and Cortana…. super useful while in driving mode

I already have a terrible digital assistant on my phone, Siri. Why would I need another?

Hopefully they let us turn this crap off.

mmm, maybe for business users, but I’m comfortable with Google. I’d probably be OK with Alexa as an alternative if I wanted to go that smart home route. I don’t understand how Microsoft and Samsung can seriously expect to top Google and Amazon in this arena.

Great worthless f#$%@!&g Cortana forced upon us another way!

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