Microsoft Cortana, an artificially intelligent character in Microsoft’s Halo Series. Microsoft assistant technology will be able to learn and adapt, relying on machine-learning technology and the “Satori” knowledge repository powering Bing. Now you may be wondering what Satori means? Satori is the Bing’s version of Google’s knowledge graph. The updates are vast and incredibly smart, making the Bing knowledge repository a lot more useful and interactive. Cortana will now take on Apple's Siri and Google’s Google Now.
Cortana will be similar to Siri by being a female assistant that will develop her own personality over time. Users can assign Cortana to refer to them either by their real names or as a nickname. Cortana will also have some functions similar to Google’s Google Now, including taking information from emails — such as flight details — and adding it to a user’s calendar. Cortana will work alongside Microsoft’s Notebook app to keep track of information on a user’s location, personal info, reminders, contacts, and any other data on a phone.
Research shows that Cortana will be included in the Xbox One video game console and the next update of Windows, in 2015, after its release for the Windows Phone. Good news for Siri haters: Cortana could even be available on Apple’s iPhone through the Bing app. Cortana’s natural language processing abilities will likely be powered by Bing’s Satori knowledge base, similar to the way that Siri is powered by Wolfram Alpha.
Plans for Cortana were first alluded to in a memo sent by Microsoft’s then-CEO, Steve Ballmer, last year. In the memo, Ballmer discussed a “service-enabled shell” that “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.”
Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, is under a lot of pressure to improve Windows Phone and get Microsoft on track to compete in the smartphone market. For now, the company is far behind industry dominators Apple and Samsung, and some are still highly skeptical that Microsoft will be able to carve out even a small niche in the increasingly saturated smartphone market.
The purchase of Nokia’s handset unit, which makes the Lumia smartphones running on Windows, was a move for Microsoft to gain more control over the Windows Phone, with hopes of growing the platform. If Cortana is an improvement over Siri, it could be a key marketing feature for the Windows Phone.
Cortana will be an opt-in, not required, feature of Windows Phone 8.1. According to the new video, Cortana, unsurprisingly, will require users to sign in with a Microsoft Account to use the service. Once users have signed in, pressing the Bing search button will bring up Cortana as the default search engine on the phone.
Fans of Microsoft and the Windows Phone shouldn’t get too excited about the Cortana feature just yet. It’s uncertain whether the final version of the software will keep the Cortana name, and a raw version isn’t likely to be unveiled until after the Build developer conference which will take place soon, expected to be in April 2014.
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