As part of Microsoft's push to make its software compatible with hybrid work, the company has released new Cortana-powered voice features for Outlook that make the app easier to use from a smartphone.
Cortana isn't a star feature on Windows 10 but it's still in the background, powering Microsoft 365 services on apps across platforms such as iOS and Android.
Now Outlook users with an iPhone or iPad can rely on Cortana's voice capabilities to schedule meetings, search for emails, and read out a reply to an email.
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Outlook users can hold down the Google-like plus sign icon on iOS (and soon Android), and then tap the microphone icon to "Use Voice" to tell Cortana what to do in Outlook.
Microsoft is consolidating Outlook for Windows, Mac, the Web, iOS and Android devices. The mobile app is based on the Acompli technology it acquired a few years ago.
It uses AI to help users find the right file, connect with contacts, or manage a calendar. You could ask, for example, "When's my next Teams meeting?"
Microsoft might lack a mobile operating system of its own, but features like this that combine Cortana with Outlook email and its calendar functionality demonstrate how it can navigate a world without Windows Phone.
"The speed and ease of using your voice can also extend to more complex projects, even with people outside your organization," said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365. Cortana uses insights from Microsoft Graph to recognize how you work and who you work with.
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For example, he said, you can say, "Set up a meeting with Jill and her team for next Monday about the Q1 budget." And then, "Add Jacob," and Cortana will recognize the correct co-workers and compose the invite.
Microsoft has extended its dictation feature for Office to iOS, which allows users to speak a response to an email or write a new email with voice. "Dictation lets you use speech-to-text and simple voice commands to author content in Office with the simple click of a microphone. Outlook also leverages Microsoft Graph to recognize the names of your colleagues so you can add that personal touch," Microsoft said in a blogpost.