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Microsoft’s new Cortana chief plans to put her smarts in more places

Cortana, where art thou? That’s what PCWorld wanted to know when we spoke with Microsoft’s recently-minted Cortana czar, Javier Soltero, late last week. The digital assistant who made a splash in Windows 10 with her snappy comebacks and silly knock-knock jokes is still offering to help you with your calendar and search. She’s even migrated to mobile apps for Android and iOS. But Cortana hasn’t talked her way into our homes like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant have, making her staying power look uncertain.

That’s where Soltero comes in. We sat down with Cortana’s new chief in the wake of a significant management shakeup that will see senior executive Terry Myerson leave, as well as the creation of a new “Experiences and Devices” team that seemingly downplays Windows.

Does that mean Cortana has been demoted? Far from it.

If you’re used to thinking of Cortana as an assistant who lives in your search box, that’s still true to a point. But in the future Cortana will be more situational, popping up in apps where she’s never existed: Outlook Mobile, for example, or Teams. No, you won’t need a Cortana app for Cortana to appear. She just will.

Below are the highlights of our interview, excerpted and in some cases edited for clarity. 

javier soltero microsoft Microsoft

Meet Microsoft Cortana’s new chief, Javier Soltero.

What change, if any, will the reorg have on Cortana?

None. “The good news is that Cortana is completely unaffected,” Soltero said, who arrived at his role from heading up the well-regarded Outlook Mobile app for iOS and Android. “This represents a super important change for the company and something that I’m super excited to be a part of. For me, very little changes, and that I believe is a very good thing.”

For Soltero, his job remains the same: Lead Cortana into the future. He’s hit the ground running. “The first thing I did was go 360 degrees through the entire product portfolio: What do we have, what don’t we have, what would we like to have, what are we doing? And we coalesced the team around a very clear strategy that has been communicated to the leadership of the company, which they’re fully behind.”

Is Cortana still part of Windows?

Cortana started as a creature of Windows 10, but she was moved over to Microsoft’s AI and Research Group when it formed about 18 months ago. Soltero confirmed he still reports to the AI team, led by Harry Shum. 

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