In a bid to play catch up with its tech adversaries Apple and Android, Microsoft is reportedly developing a voice-activated digital personal assistant codenamed "Cortana." Yes, that Cortana from the Halo series. Nerdy indeed.
Having first appeared as an app called "zCortana" in early versions of a Windows phone menu, it went largely unnoticed. The namesake character seems well suited to become a Microsoft UI digital assistant, since in the Halo series, she "provides backstory and tactical information" to the gamer, always in holographic form (maybe she'll pop up as a hologram from our Nokia Lumias?)
Using the already-existing TellMe speech technology, a user's app interaction, and Satori, the Bing "technology" that is basically a data-mining tool, Cortana will be able to provide a customized, tailored search and assist experience for its users. This means that not only will Cortana be collecting information about you from search engines, but it will also be taking into account which apps you use most, what you do on those apps, and basically be an in-background digital spy in order to "better serve your needs."
In a July strategy memo about Microsoft's reorganization, CEO Steve Ballmer claimed Cortana would be able to "respond seamlessly" to what the user wants, and would even know what you need before you ask for it. Yup, it's all for your own good — not. Since 2011, the head honchos at Microsoft — and Ballmer, exceptionally so — had been planning to launch their own version of Siri and Google Now. With the launch of Windows Phone 8.1-based phones expected to arrive in early 2014, the addition of Cortana would be a smart move for Microsoft.
Going Above And Beyond Siri And Google Now
Yet, according to Stefan Weitz, senior director for Bing, Microsoft is holding back and doesn't want to release its version of a digital personal assistant until it creates a product that is "revolutionary" instead of "evolutionary" for its devices. In short, Microsoft plans to annihilate Siri and Google Now by biding its time.
So how exactly would Cortana differ from and outshine Siri and Google Now? Apparently, instead of merely looking up for great vacation places, for example, it would actually be able to plan your Caribbean vacation for you: by guessing your seat preferences on the plane, connecting your flight with hotel availability and pre-calculating the exchange rate to deliver you a whole itinerary. You know, so you don't have to use your brain at all!
Still, with no anticipated release date, Cortana is just another empty promise from Microsoft, even if it assures folks it'll blow their minds over Siri and Google Now.