Later this year, Microsoft will launch Windows 10, the latest version of its flagship operating system. But the Redmond, Washington giant isn't the "Windows first, Windows best" company it was under former CEO Steve Ballmer. Under chief executive Satya Nadella, who moved into the corner office last year, the company is strongly committed to making its software work on all platforms -- even those made by rivals Apple and Google.
The latest evidence for Microsoft's new strategy comes in the form of a blog post from company devices guru Joe Belfiore. He explains that when you first plug in your device -- which could be an iPhone or Android phone -- Windows will pop up an app called Phone Companion. The app will hold the user's hand and set up syncing between your desktop and phone with Microsoft OneDrive, get Xbox Music set up, as well as configure Microsoft Windows so it syncs with your device.
But perhaps the biggest feature that Microsoft is bringing to iOS and Android devices is its voice assistant, Cortana, which previously was only available for Windows Phones. It will also be part of Windows 10. According to the post, Microsoft will ask users to install a separate Cortana app for iOS and Android which has the same functionality as the version running on Microsoft operating systems.
"The Cortana app can do most of the things Cortana does on your PC or on a Windows phone. You can have Cortana remind you to pick up milk the next time you’re at the grocery store, and then your phone will wake up and buzz with the reminder. You’ll be able to track a flight using Cortana on both your phone and your PC, and get the updates on the device that you’re on so you don’t miss anything," Belfiore wrote.
Cortana faces stiff competition from built-in voice assistants on both iOS and Android. Apple's version, Siri, is only available on iPhones. Google doesn't give its voice assistant technology a name or personality, but it's available on most computing platforms through the Google app or through a browser.
In many ways, Cortana is Microsoft's search play. It's activated through the search button on Windows Phone and the assistant will be embedded into a search bar built-into Windows 10. It uses Microsoft's Bing as its search engine by default, of course.
Just because Microsoft is making some of its best features available on iOS and Android doesn't mean it's ditching Windows on phones. As the post notes, on Windows Phone, Cortana can change device settings, and some of Microsoft's syncing features are easier to set up on phones running Microsoft's operating system. Plus, Microsoft appears poised to launch two new high-end devices running Windows to coincide with the Windows 10 launch.