Cortana, the personal assistant built into Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system, is coming to Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android operating system, according to a new report. If it happens, it could change the smartphone landscape forever.
In the report, Reuters doesn’t mince any words about the future of Microsoft’s personal assistant. According to the outlet, “Microsoft is planning to bring its Cortana digital assistant to iOS and Android as a standalone app,” the outlet declares. Allegedly, these new mobile versions of Cortana are set to début with Cortana on Windows 10 and even a revamp of Cortana’s features coming later this year.
This new version of Cortana is said to have more advanced artificial intelligence features than today’s version. In an interview included with the news about Cortana coming to other mobile devices Microsoft’s Eric Horvitz talks at detail about the updates coming later this year. Codenamed Einstein, Horvitz says that the updated technology going into the project “will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame.” Horvitz is the managing director of Microsoft Research, the part of the company that looks into building new technologies that other parts of the company can use for breakthrough products.
Make no mistake, Microsoft releasing Cortana on iOS and Android could change how we think about the smartphone space forever.
Today, Google, Apple and Microsoft offer their own operating systems complete with the ideal hardware to run them on. For a long time, all three companies have relied on exclusive features not available elsewhere as a way to sell their own hardware and software. Apple takes this to the extreme and offers none of its apps or services on Windows Phone or Android. Google was the first to understand the importance of going cross-platform. Many of its apps and services are available on the iPhone and iPad. Under former CEO Steve Ballmer and current CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has made almost all of its apps and services available on iPhone and Android. What’s more, many of them are completely free and highly regarded.
Releasing Cortana on iOS and Android just makes sense. Something like Cortana is only useful when it’s ubiquitous. More people using Cortana means Microsoft has more data to process and make her better. On the other hand it also means that Microsoft has one last major selling point for its Windows phones.
Cortana debuted as the personal assistant for Windows Phone with the Windows Phone 8.1 update. That software included a lot of options and big changes. For example it exposed a file system like Android and added tons more customization options. None of those other features caught on like Cortana. With Cortana, users can set appointments with their voice and control settings. In that way, Cortana is sort of like Apple’s Siri. On the other hand, Cortana uses email and GPS tracking to actively give users information. For example, she detects flight confirmations and keeps users updated. In addition to that, she reminds users of their next appointment in time enough to get there.
Cortana is one of the few features of Windows Phone that Microsoft has actively advertised in the last year or so. Making her available on other devices could be seen by some as Microsoft giving up on its own mobile operating system. That fear seems to be a bit overblown though.
Presumably, Microsoft will market the feature as being better if users own a Windows Phone. That makes sense as iOS isn’t set up to let apps replace essential features.