Microsoft has hinted at it for months, but only recently are we getting our first look at a key feature that Microsoft plans to integrate into its forthcoming Windows 10 operating system. A single photo from a new version of Windows 10 includes Cortana, the Siri-like personal assistant that Microsoft hopes will give Siri on the iPhone and iPad some decent competition across devices.
Neowin, a Microsoft-focused website that has leaked accurate information about Windows in the past, is reporting that the icon spotted in a recent leak of Windows 10 is indeed Cortana. “This is a real image of Cortana in the taskbar in Windows 10,” the publication’s post about Cortana in Windows 10 reads.
Unfortunately, the publication doesn’t go on to provide a lot of information about the features users can expect from Cortana in Windows 10. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though as it seems Cortana in Windows 10 will be functionally identical to the version that’s available to Windows Phone users today.
Cortana was first revealed when Microsoft showed off the Windows Phone 8.1 update for smartphones running its Windows Phone operating system. Users received Cortana when they upgraded their Windows Phone throughout the year. Like Apple’s Siri, Cortana presents herself as an actual person in a conversational way. Ask Cortana to set your alarm and she’ll do so. Ask her to tell a joke or predict the winner of a football game and she will. Like Google Now, Cortana collects information about users’ appointments and travel plans by monitoring their email. Unlike Google Now, Cortana asks for permission to do so and can be told not to monitor certain things going forward.
Cortana gets her name from the artificial intelligence of the Pillar of Autumn in the Halo franchise. She ventures around the galaxy with series hero, John 117. Allegedly, Cortana was just a codename for the project until Microsoft realized how it would play with users. Cortana on Windows Phone shares the same speech patterns and voice as the Cortana in the Halo games in the United States. In some other countries, she’s has a different voice or isn’t a she at all.
Microsoft has hinted at Cortana coming to other devices for years. Recently, some even suspected that Microsoft might have plans to bring Cortana to iPhone or Android. There’s no evidence that’s happening yet. For now it appears as if owning a Windows device will be the only way to get Cortana.
A lot of what makes up Cortana is already included in the latest versions of Windows 10. For example, Neowin notes that some sound files and other essentials are available in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Unfortunately, no one has found a way to get her to work. It’s suspected that Cortana will be among the features that make it to testers in the Windows 10 Consumer Preview in January. Joining Cortana will be a new touch and keyboard friendly interface called Continuum.
The Windows 10 Technical Preview that’s available today includes tons of changes to Windows 8. Users Windows Store apps can be run directly from the Desktop alongside other apps like iTunes. Additionally, Windows 10 notebook and tablet users now see the Start Menu by default. Only those who need a pure touch experience will have the Start Menu and Desktop hidden. Microsoft is hoping that Windows 10 adapting to the inputs that users have will make it more usable. That’s key because the company plans to use Windows 10 on tablets, desktops, laptops, 2-in-1s, smartphones and the Xbox One. We don’t yet know what Windows 10 on those last two devices will look like exactly.
Microsoft has publicly said that Windows 10 will launch sometime in 2015.