Microsoft is once again tinkering with Cortana, the default voice assistant on Windows 10. The company already separated Cortana from the Windows search bar earlier this year, and now it's offering the digital assistant as a separate app in the Microsoft Store.
A new Cortana beta app (opens in new tab) was spotted in the store by Aggiornamento Lumia, an Italian tech site covering Windows phone. Microsoft has been slowly distancing Cortana from Windows 10, and treating them as two distinct services. The voice assistant's appearance in the Microsoft Store could signal the separation of Cortana from Windows 10, altogether.
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Unfortunately, the app isn't online yet so we haven't been able to test it. Once downloaded, the app appears in the start menu as "Cortana" with the familiar circular icon next to it. But pressing on the app simply redirected me to the "all apps" tab.
Screenshots for the beta in the Microsoft Store show how a dialogue appears on the Task Bar when the app is launched. It looks like you can either type or audibly ask Cortana a question by pressing on a small microphone icon. One example shows a user asking about their "task list" and Cortana responding with a rundown of the day's schedule. It also appears that the app will let you swipe between multiple instances of Cortana, so you can more easily organize your requests.
According to the app's system requirements, users need to install Windows 10 version 18362 (May 2019 update) or newer.
Microsoft has not yet commented on any plans to separate Cortana from Windows 10 and offer it as only an app. However, when Microsoft unlinked Cortana from the search bar, it severely reduced the voice assistant's status on the OS. One potential benefit of offering Cortana as a standalone app is that Microsoft could push out updates more quickly
Microsoft was supposed to launch a beta for the codename 19H2 by the end of spring, however, that timeframe has come and gone. The Cortana app could be tied to this release, so hopefully, we'll learn more whenever Microsoft gets the build ready.