Microsoft Cortana Temporarily Loses Wake Word

Microsoft Cortana will temporarily no longer respond to “Hey Cortana” as a wake word in the latest beta of Windows 10. The voice assistant will regain the wake word function in the future, according to Microsoft, as part of the overall redesign and refocusing of Cortana on enterprise and productivity services.

Silent Update

Microsoft is performing a substantial update to the Windows 10 operating system this month. Cortana is one of several aspects changing, but the current beta version has lost the ability to hear and respond as it has previously. The company hasn’t explained why it was necessary to disable Cortana, even for a short while. It may be connected to the zero-day vulnerability Microsoft discovered that is delaying the entire Windows 10 upgrade until May 28, but it could also just be a necessary step toward the revamped Cortana. When voice functions will be restored, and how Cortana will operate once they are, is also still a mystery. Unlike when it appeared that Cortana had vanished from the Harman Kardon Invoke, this is a deliberate change.

Productive Future

What is known is that the changes in Cortana are part of Microsoft’s redesign of the virtual assistant around business and enterprise. Cortana will no longer be an integrated part of the Windows 10 taskbar, Instead, it will be an independent app that users can call up with text or voice. It will connect with Microsoft 365, connecting work calendars, email addresses, and other info to act as a digital assistant in the workplace. Instead of a consumer-facing assistant at home, Cortana will read and send emails, remind people about meetings, and otherwise perform like an executive assistant.

In exchange, Cortana is losing the ability to play music, run smart home devices, and connect with third-party voice apps as it has until now. It will also require a Microsoft account to run, which may improve security, but could limit connections with the suite of business tools offered by Google and other companies.

The temporary loss of the Cortana wake word suggests the long-running transformation of Cortana that Microsoft initiated when the Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise came out in 2018 is finally nearing completion. Since that launch, Microsoft began shutting down the Cortana app for Android and iOS everywhere except the U.S., where its usefulness for experimentation sustains it. Cortana is also central to the new $250 Surface Earbuds. Though expensive, they include compatibility with Office 365 via Cortana.


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