Microsoft May Be Readying a Siri-like Virtual Assistant Called ‘Cortana’

It'll reportedly have a Google Now-like ability to anticipate what you need.

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Siri and Google Now are both key features on the iPhone and Android, respectively, so it’s no surprise that Microsoft is thought to be preparing a virtual assistant of its own.

Both WMPowerUser and ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley have put pieces together from various leaks, rumors and public statements by Microsoft. It seems that this assistant will apparently be named “Cortana” — a nod to the Master Chief’s AI sidekick in the hit Xbox game Halo – and would allegedly attempt to leapfrog Siri and Google Now in capabilities.

Right now the details are pretty vague; the clearest idea of what Microsoft might want to do comes from soon-to-be-retired CEO Steve Ballmer, in a memo from July (emphasis mine):

Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it.

That doesn’t sound like a huge leap compared to Google Now, the virtual assistant that’s built into Android phones. Google Now basically looks at your Gmail account, calendar, web searches and location, and serves up information that it thinks you might need.

It can tell you when to leave for your next appointment, or bring up your boarding pass when you get to the airport. It keeps you in the loop for your favorite sports teams, and tells you about breaking news for topics you’ve searched for in the past. Compared to Siri, Google Now is more about anticipating what you need, though you can also use Google voice search to get Siri-like spoken answers to certain queries.

Still, I’m not one to complain about another company trying to do a similar thing, especially because Google is not particularly interested in bringing its services to Windows Phone. If Microsoft can provide an equal or better service, it’ll be all the more beneficial for Windows Phone users — and presumably Windows users down the line.

When could Cortana arrive on Windows Phone? That’s not so clear either. Although signs of Cortana have reportedly shown up in leaks for the next version of Windows Phone, Foley notes that Microsoft executives don’t expect this kind of assistant to be ready until somewhere between 2014 and 2016. Meanwhile, Siri and Google Now will continue to evolve and grow, so the clock’s ticking for Microsoft.

4 comments
zaxiusii
zaxiusii

Ok. This is just an amazing idea. Cortana is a staple in XBOX for sure. My kids hear this and are begging for Windows Phones now. LOL

What I hope for. I want to see Microsoft not just match SIRI. I want to see them trump them by completely integrating Cortana as a complete virtual AI presence with image, movement, and all as well as being an AI assistant that can talk and respond. This is not impossible. This has been done many times before using Virtual AI in other programs as far back as Windows 95 days. Giving an image would be great.

How about as well being able to tweak the voice of the AI assistant or add downloadable assistants where you could pick an assistant. Say you want Genie from "I dream of Genie" or for the girls maybe a Pierce Brosnan as "007". lol just like Marge in that Simpsons episode of "Ultra House 3000". OK old episode and nobody probably got that Joke. But to see virtual assistant and be able to speak or converse fully would be an awesome quantum leap over todays basic assistant lingo based on commands.

These systems can do so much more considering they understand spoken language already and can reply, it is not a big leap to an actual full blown Artificial Intelligence.

TeaPartyCitizen
TeaPartyCitizen

Microsoft Windows is a pre-mobile OS. We have iOS and Android which have millions of apps compared to the few that Windows phones have. Add to this that no developer develops on a device which only has a 3% market share. Android and iOS have a 95% market share between them. Only a fool would buy something which nobody else is buying. They also go to movies which nobody else goes to and probably nobody wants to be their friend and they celebrate Thanksgiving with nobody. If you want to be a nobody and you are friendless and nobody likes you, that is who buys Microsoft phones and nobody else.

EnderWiggum
EnderWiggum

If they pull this off in any plausible way whatsoever I'm a Windows phone user for life.  Not optimistic though.  

zaxiusii
zaxiusii

@TeaPartyCitizen Oddly, that's the same thing people said when IPhones first arrived on the scene. They said, Why buy Apple products when Microsoft leads the eco system for PC? Yet somebody bought one and loved it and told others and now Apple is King in America and Android is the undisputed World leader. But Microsoft while coming late, did an awesome job of creating from scratch a unique system that would allow them to push a one experience for all devices concept. They made it reality. And.... For those who have picked up the phone and tried something new... We are the ones saying. WOW now and talking about the things these phones enable us to do more of.

Again, That's also the same thing that happened when Android started. They had problems for many years with a poor OS that was clunky. Look at them now. After years of hard work and improving upon their concepts, they enjoy the majority share in the cell phone market.

Change is good and brings innovation. People like you will continue to say things like this for the next 100 years but that will not stop companies from trying something new or working to change the status quo to make a profit.