Microsoft appears to be slowly de-emphasising its Cortana voice-activated assistant system, removing it from Windows 10's integrated search system and stating that it sees it as 'a valuable skill that someone using [Amazon's] Alexa can call' rather than direct competition.

Named for the artificial intelligence companion to the Master Chief in Microsoft's Halo franchise, Cortana launched in April 2014 for Windows Phone and soon followed onto the desktop. Like its rivals, Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant, and Apple's Siri, Cortana allowed the user to call for everything from a summary of recent news to directions to a particular location. While Microsoft has shied away from releasing dedicated devices like Amazon's Echo and Google's Home, it recently announced a pair of headphones with Cortana integration - and comments from Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella hint that it may be the last such device to appear.

Speaking during a media event attended by Business Insider, Nadella explained the company's shift of focus: 'Would it be better off, for example, to make Cortana a valuable skill that someone who is using Alexa can call? Or should we try to compete with Alexa,' Nadella asked. 'We, quite frankly, decided that we would do the former. Because Cortana needs to be that skill for anyone who is a Microsoft Office 365 subscriber. And you should also be able to use [Cortana] on Google Assistant. You should be able to use it on Alexa, just like you use our apps on Android or iOS. So that's at least how we want to go.'

Nadella's comments come shortly after his company announced an update for its Windows 10 operating system which reduces the integration between Cortana and the underlying operating system, removing Cortana from the built-in search functionality and making it a separate entity. The company has not, however, indicated that it plans to make Cortana a standalone application.

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