Microsoft’s Cortana will join Siri on iOS

14 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cortana is going to invade Android and iOS.

Microsoft is working on an advanced version of its competitor to Apple’s Siri, using research from an artificial intelligence project called Einstein. Microsoft launched its digital assistant Cortana on Windows Phone devices last year and it will be integrated in the taskbar of the Windows 10 desktop operating system this fall.

Microsoft is doubling down on its Siri competitor, Cortana, first by boosting its intelligence via project “Einstein” and then with plans to release it on Apple and Android devices, according to Reuters.The battle of the virtual personal assistants could be about to heat up, with reports that Microsoft’s Cortana is set to make the jump to Android and iOS.But, according to Reuters, Microsoft is also prepping a standalone Cortana app, which will be accessible on Apple- and Android-powered smartphones and tablets. Microsoft has been running its “personal assistant” Cortana on its Windows phones for a year, and will put the new version on the desktop with the arrival of Windows 10 this autumn.

Later, Cortana will be available as a standalone app, usable on phones and tablets powered by Apple Inc’s iOS and Google Inc’s Android, people familiar with the project said. “This kind of technology, which can read and understand email, will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame,” said Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research and a part of the Einstein project, in an interview at the company’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters. In an area of the market where Microsoft has struggled for some time – smartphones – its voice assistant is widely regarded by many to be the best of the three. Going one step further than Apple’s Siri, which can answer questions and set reminders, Cortana adds context to these – reminding you to leave for the airport if you have a flight to catch for example. The Cortana project came out of a branch of Microsoft developing artificial intelligence, dubbed “Einstein.” Cortana, which is named after a central character in the massively popular Microsoft-owned video game series Halo, has been installed on Microsoft phones for the past year.

This move, the news agency pointed out, is the latest in CEO Satya Nadella’s struggle to boost Microsoft sales by offering software on devices and platforms other than Windows. She works similarly to Siri, acting as a primarily voice-activated personal assistant that can set event reminders, check traffic conditions, and look up information online (through Bing, of course). For instance, Redmond already sells its Outlook email service and Office suite to iOS and Android owners, allowing more people access to the same content they use at home or in the office.

The concept of ‘artificial intelligence’ is broad, and mobile phones and computers already show dexterity with spoken language and sifting through emails for data, for instance. However it does follow a plan laid out by Microsoft chief Satya Nadella, who has spoken in the past of branching out some of Microsoft’s services to users on other platforms.

Microsoft’s goal for Cortana is to utilize research on machine learning, speech recognition and search queries to anticipate the needs of its users. Shortly after Satya Nadella was made CEO in February 2014, Microsoft abruptly announced that its industry-standard Office suite would be opened up to the iPad. This has already begun to happen with Office, the company’s productivity suite, with the Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps going free on Apple’s iOS for the first time. Apple Siri was designed for responding to statements and questions and Google Now has predictive information cards based on content that it thinks the user wants to see.

Google Now sometimes makes a few too many conclusions from combing customers’ search engine and browsing history. “Cortana’s knowledge about you is out in the open, in a ‘notebook’ that you have control over and that includes sections for interests, remind me, quiet hours, inner circle, places, and music searches,” says PC Magazine reporter Michael Muchmore in a review of Cortana last April. The Office Assistant nicknamed ‘Clippy’ suffered a similar fate a few years later. “We’re defining the competitive landscape… of who can provide the most supportive services that make life easier, keep track of things, that complement human memory in a way that helps us get things done,” said Horvitz.

The individual functionalities built into Cortana are common with other digital assistants, but combining each one together is what makes Microsoft’s digital assistant distinguishable from the others. Outside his door stands “The Assistant,” a monitor showing a woman’s face that can converse with visitors, has access to Horvitz’s calendar and can book meetings. On his desktop, Horvitz runs ‘Lifebrowser’, a program that stores everything from appointments to photos and uses machine learning to identify the important moments. Instead of using Windows products to woo people to Windows-powered hardware, chief executive officer Satya Nadella seems to be open to letting Windows’ best software naturally integrate into hardware trends, ensuring that Windows will be somewhere in consumers’ technology diet, even if that doesn’t mean they are holding a Windows phone. Google’s latest mobile app uses the predictive power generated from billions of searches to work out what a user is doing, what they are interested in, and sending relevant information, such as when a favorite sports team is playing next.

Apple is also pushing Siri, which uses Microsoft’s Bing search engine in the background, into new areas with its CarPlay and HomeKit platforms, as well as the recently unveiled Apple Watch.

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