Microsoft’s digital assistant has had a tough time recently. After starting off life on Windows Phone, Cortana appeared on Windows 10 PCs and looked set to launch on a range of smart speakers, fridges, toasters, thermostats, and more. While Alexa and Google Assistant have corned this part of the market, Cortana has been left behind, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella admitted earlier this year that Cortana no longer competes directly with Google Assistant or Alexa. Microsoft has a new vision for Cortana, involving conversational interactions for workers who are organizing their days. I sat down with the new Cortana chief, Andrew Shuman, this week at Microsoft’s Build conference to get an idea for how the company is approaching Cortana in 2019 and beyond.

“I think one of the challenges we’ve had over the last couple of years is finding those places where Microsoft can really add a lot of value,” explains Shuman. “I think that what we’ve been really working on over the last year is how we can better embed Cortana across Microsoft 365 experiences and really delight users, especially those users who really are on board, so we have to understand their calendar, their tasks, their work documents, their interfacing with their close collaborators.”

Microsoft is re-positioning Cortana to focus on integrating the digital assistant into routines and parts of the company’s software and services that make sense, and are very business-focused. It’s fair to say that Cortana is definitely going to start showing up more and more in these scenarios at first, but there’s still room for the consumer elements of Cortana to continue, too. “You have a whole life product and we hundred percent believe in that,” says Shuman. “We just think it makes sense to start with customers who are invested in Microsoft at work and think about how they come through their lives.”

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