Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) will include a digital personal assistant on the update for Windows Phone 8.1 or “Blue,” due for release in April. Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1 will replace Bing search with an animated circular icon, similar to Siri, but store information in a Notebook and generate notifications similar to Google Now.
When information about Cortana Windows Phone first began leaking online, reports said that the personal assistant would unify Windows Phone 8.1, the Xbox One game console and computers running Windows 8. A recent report from The Verge, which includes screenshots of Cortana in action on Windows Phone, does not mention the Xbox One or Windows 8 computers.
Fans of the “Halo” series may be disappointed that Cortana on Windows Phone does not look like its namesake, the artificial intelligence from the Microsoft-owned game series in the photos. However, Cortana will allow Windows Phone users to customize how they are addressed, as it can call them by name or even a “Halo”-inspired title like “Master Chief.”
Cortana on Windows Phone utilizes a “Notebook” system that allows it to access location data, personal information, reminders, contact information and user behaviors. Whereas Apple Corp.'s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Siri uses Wolphram Alpha and Yelp to answer queries on iPhones, Cortana will likely utilize Bing’s cloud-based knowledge database software known as “Satori.”
In one screenshot obtained by The Verge, Cortana on Windows Phone installs with the message “I’m absorbing the entire internet. Won’t take long.” The notion of absorbing the entire Internet is an attempt to be humorous, but likely highlights Satori integration, a key feature of Bing that Microsoft thinks will give Cortana an “evolutionary” leap over Siri and Google Now.
Last summer, Microsoft told CNET that Satori is capable of cataloging Web entities and the data they contain as well as relationships between different items. At the time, for instance, Satori had catalogued 1.8 million bottles of wine, and a number of characteristics about each type of wine, grabbing information from across the Web and unifying it in a single location.
Microsoft aims to wow consumers by allowing Bing on devices, as well as Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1, to answer a question in milliseconds instead of offering a page of links to websites, advancing the notion of conversational computing brought on by Siri and improved by Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) with its Google Now. Cortana can also track flights and other information from users’ email, allowing it to generate notifications similar to Google Now.
Will Cortana deliver on Windows Phone and offer consumers a better experience than Google Now and Siri? More importantly, will the digital personal assistant eventually unite Microsoft services across Windows Phone, Windows 8.1 computers and the Xbox One? Only time will tell.
Follow Thomas Halleck on Twitter @tommylikey