Before Cortana launched and failed miserably, Microsoft had big plans for its voice assistant. Sandeep Paruchuri, former Microsoft Product Manager, revealed that Steve Ballmer wanted to name Microsoft’s Cortana “Bingo” after they finalized the name. Likewise, Paruchari recalled the story of Cortana’s demise in an interview with the Big Bets newsletter.
Cortana’s current name comes from the Halo game series, where Cortana is an AI that guides the player. The AI guides the player with information about what to do next, so Microsoft chose the name. However, there was another name that Microsoft wanted to give to the voice assistant.
The Cortana name was initially meant to be an internal codename. At its launch, Microsoft wanted the assistant’s name to be “Alyx,” as it was easier to pronounce. However, with the Cortana term leaking to the public, users wanted Microsoft to go with that name, and that’s why the name stuck.
After this series of events, ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wanted to change its name again. He wanted the assistant to be like other Microsoft products, like Bing. Consequently, he tried to replace the name Cortona with “Bingo.” Shortly after, the name change didn’t eventually occur when Satya Nadella became Microsoft’s CEO.
The newsletter explains Cortana’s history in detail and is an exciting read for those curious.