Microsoft was planning to call Cortana like Alyx and Bingo
Microsoft’s Cortana was a massive failure for the company, and it could never compete with Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, or Apple’s Siri smart assistants. Cortana seemed like a great idea and a great product at the time, but it never turned out to be anything useful.
In the latest edition of the Big Bets newsletter, Sandeep Paruchuri, former product manager at Microsoft, explained how Cortana was born. The conference also revealed some interesting tidbits about development and what went on behind the scenes with Cortana as a personal assistant.
The name Cortana itself comes from the Halo series, where Cortana is AI software that helps gamers, providing more information about missions and the like, which is why Microsoft chose it. While engineers chose the name internally, the public name was Alyx, which was easier to pronounce, according to those familiar with the matter. Unfortunately, Cortana’s name was leaked to the public and, unsurprisingly, fans started asking Microsoft to name their assistant as such, which eventually came to fruition and happened, which is how Cortana. received his name,
While Steve Ballmer was still CEO of Microsoft, he wanted to make some changes and rename Cortana to Bingo to promote Bing as a search engine. The name change never took place as Satya Nadella was elected as the new CEO shortly thereafter, and did not make the planned changes that would have affected Cortana’s name and branding.
Cortana started out as an ambitious project with a very small team that wanted to develop a real smart assistant, similar to what was displayed in the Halo game series. As the project progressed and gained momentum, more and more people got involved in the development. Unfortunately, all the planned features took too much time which the teams did not have, therefore many features had to be removed from the released version. Cortana was launched with basic functionality and was only available in US English, which worried many engineers.
Microsoft managed to deliver Cortana on Windows 10 to desktops, and it also existed on Windows phones at the time, unfortunately it had lackluster features and it still felt like an unfinished product. The smart assistant was also available on Android and iOS, and many used it – including myself at the start – to mirror smartphone notifications to the desktop. Cortana was eventually arrested and killed by Microsoft on mobile, and Windows 11 doesn’t even offer it anymore.
You can read the full story at Big Bets.