How Cortana will be your digital assistant at work

Cortana can also work directly with universal apps in Windows 10 – a universal app can register to handle certain commands that users speak to Cortana, and they can specify what Cortana will say in return and what she will do in response to the command.

Using Azure Active Directory as the way to connect Cortana to business systems is important not just to simplify the way you make those connections, but also to secure them and make sure only the right employees get access, a Microsoft spokesperson told us.

Power BI integration with Cortana 2

The new look for Cortana will leave plenty of spaces where suggestions from business systems like Power BI can fit into Microsoft's digital assistant

If businesses are going to be comfortable with Cortana having access to information like sales forecasts and customer information, they need to have control over who sees that information, and Cortana needs to respect their need for data protection and privacy and compliance. All of that is already built in to Azure Active Directory, along with authentication for the kinds of third-party services like Salesforce that it will be useful to have Cortana talk to, through Power BI or directly through the extensibility framework.

As you'd expect, the Cortana team is looking at what other Microsoft services will make sense to connect to, like the Office graph and Office 365 content. Cortana can already find documents you have access to on the topics you're asking about – it might make sense to have the documents that Delve suggests are relevant to you also show up as suggestions from Cortana. The new Cortana interface with small cards for multiple topics of interest could be a good way to show those without getting in the way when you're doing a search.

Training Cortana

Adding business information to Cortana will also help improve her voice recognition. Cortana does very well with common web searches, a Microsoft spokesperson told us, and the number of speech searches Cortana users perform is going up (voice searches are most common in China, currently).

But to make voice recognition more accurate across a wider range of questions, they need examples of people using less common phrases to train the system up. The Project Oxford APIs may help with that too, because they use the same voice recognition APIs as Cortana.

So not only will Cortana connect to more business systems for you to ask questions of, but more apps may start offering the same voice recognition and natural queries we'll get used to with Cortana.


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.