Microsoft is starting to roll out Cortana inside of Skype, letting its smart assistant jump into private and group chats to offer assistance in making plans and looking up information. Cortana will be available on both iOS and Android, but Microsoft says its assistant “will be gradually rolled out” starting in the US, so you might not have access yet.
This Cortana integration was announced more than a year and a half ago, and it’s not totally clear what accounts for the long delay. The implementation here seems to be pretty much identical to what we’ve already seen Facebook do with its assistant in Messenger and Google do with its assistant in Allo: as you’re chatting with friends, Cortana may pop up beneath the most recent message and attempt to suggest something helpful, like creating a reminder or looking up restaurants. You’ll also be able to start a private chat with Cortana, offering a way to interact with the assistant directly.
The integration seems like it could be occasionally handy, though I’ve never found similar chat assistants to be all that useful; usually, they offer to do things I don’t want or would rather just do myself. Still, getting Cortana started inside of Skype is the first step toward making this kind of service useful, and at least Microsoft is there now.
Cortana was originally announced for Skype at a moment when the tech world was trying to convince everyone that messaging bots were The Next Big Thing. Mercifully, that was not the case, but we’ve still seen big companies push ahead with chat integrations of their own smart assistants. Skype is still building out a bot platform, too, with highlights apparently including this Steve Aoki bot.