Last Updated on 26/12/2021 by Ulka
According to the Big Bets newsletter, Steve Ballmer wanted Microsoft’s Cortana AI to be dubbed “Bingo” to make it more Microsoft-branded. That’s according to Sandeep Paruchuri, a former Microsoft product manager who told journalist Alice Newton Rex how Microsoft’s AI assistant acquired its moniker as part of a deep dive into Cortana’s roots.
While we’ve gotten a pretty decent picture of Microsoft’s grandiose ambition for the AI assistant in the years since it leaked and subsequently released, Paruchuri and Rex revealed the inside narrative of how Cortana was named, pitched to management, and the battle between dreams and realities that occurred. There are also fascinating insights about how the virtual assistant became one of the primary marketing tools for the disastrous Windows Phone platform.
The post serves as a wonderful reminder of the fun origin storey behind the assistant’s moniker, which was inspired by the Halo character (who is also an AI, which isn’t confusing at all) and was intended to be used solely during development. According to Paruchuri, the feature was supposed to be called Alyx, but when the name leaked, Halo fans and tech reporters were so enraged that Microsoft opted to call it Cortana.
While not every detail of the AI’s history is as fascinating as Ballmer’s decision to name it after Microsoft’s beloved search engine (which he came up with during his handover of power to current CEO Satya Nadella), the newsletter is still worth reading if you’re curious about Cortana’s origins or want to learn how not to name your product.