Microsoft Adds Cortana Voice Assistant to iOS Outlook
The Microsoft Cortana voice assistant is now available on Outlook for iOS devices for the first time. The company revealed the new home for its voice assistant at the Microsoft Ignite event, along with the plan to include Cortana on Android devices next year.
While Siri remains the default voice assistant on Apple devices, Cortana will be a part of the Microsoft Outlook app. By adjusting the settings on the phone, users can get Cortana to read out emails and schedule notifications by making requests to the voice assistant. Once they’ve heard the email, people can label or archive them by voice request to Cortana. The news about Cortana and iOS was announced as part of Microsoft’s larger look at new features for Office 365. For now, the Cortana feature is limited to the U.S. although Microsoft did say there are plans to expand geographically soon.
The other notable addition for Cortana now that it is on iOS is a new, masculine voice for the digital assistant. Until now, Cortana only offered a feminine voice to interact with. Both voices are supposed to sound more natural and less robotic than before thanks to Microsoft applying more advanced Neural Text to Speech abilities. That will come in handy for Cortana’s new daily briefing email feature, combining meeting summaries and relevant documents for each day to Office 365 users. Cortana can then respond to voice commands to organize future meetings after asking the user for information about time and place.
Enterprise Voice AI
Extending Cortana to Outlook on iOS and Android fits right into Microsoft’s recent strategy for the voice assistant. Microsoft is focusing on the enterprise and business side of things rather than trying to compete for the same consumer market that Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant are fighting for a piece of. That’s why all of its announcements about Cortana at Ignite were built around Office 365 and integrating the voice assistant into productivity, including the improved conversational ability of Cortana wheen used through Office 365.
It’s also the strategy behind Microsoft’s new Surface Earbuds. The $250 earbuds differ from their competitors only in how compatible they are to with Office 365. They can run Office 365 when connected to a PC or mobile device running Windows. Cortana can coordinate emails via the earbuds as well as perform real-time commentary and advance slides in presentations by tapping on the earbuds. Cortana also carries out live translations of speech for the Surface Earbuds wearer.
Becoming part of iOS covers Microsoft’s bases. A lot of people working in office use Office 365 and own iPhones. A productivity feature like Cortana crossing that boundary accomplishes Microsoft’s goals of getting Cortana and Outlook to be used more frequently and by more people.