Wait, did Microsoft even bother testing Cortana on the iPhone?
Cortana makes the leap to iOS and Android but saves the best for Cyanogen.
According to a report from The Verge, Cortana will become a contextual tool that appears within documents. It’s worth a quick note that Microsoft has released Cortana for Android and for the first time we’re seeing the effect that the company’s involvement in the Android platform is having.MICROSOFT HAS started rolling out its personal assistant app Cortana to Android and iOS as it continues to become a cross-platform software vendor, in part realising that the only way to get people to use Windows is to bring the mountains to Mohammed, so to speak.Microsoft has been playing catch-up in the smartphone market for some time, but there’s one area where it has managed to create something of an advantage: virtual assistants. After investing in forked OS Cyanogen a while back, we’re now seeing that the latest version has Cortana baked in and offering features not available in standard Android.
The app has the potential to be a big, bold step as it enables iPhone and Android users to better sync with their PC – with reminders, schedule and other info working better across the two platforms. The app which was earlier locked down to just the smartphone for Windows 10 Mobile users has now evolved to an app that scales to tablets and desktops, powered by Windows 10. The full Cortana database of knowledge is now also available across both devices – so users can track sports scores as well as flights and the stock market.
If you’ve ever encountered Siri, this will be very familiar to you, though in several speed and accuracy tests of Cortana alongside Siri and Google Now, the Windows creation has come out on top. Microsoft has commented that users will just need to register with their mobile number (like always) on the desktop app and you can book a ride directly from your desktop without the need to touch your Windows 10 powered smartphone. It looks like split screen multitasking is going to be front and centre, and that matters because after the US release of the Android-powered Pixel C this week, the general feeling is that the great hardware is let down by the limitations of the Android software.
There is another alternative, Remix OS, which we have mentioned before in this column and will give you a more thorough inspection of before Christmas. It still remains to be seen whether Cortana can be as truly powerful on third-party devices seeing as both Apple and Google could limit the amount of features on your device the app can gain access to. In Windows 10, however, Cortana is concurrent to the search bar and as such can be called up with a single mouse click or the immortal “Hey Cortana” voice command.
But this launch is also interesting because it shows the mindset of Microsoft – which appears to have accepted that users are likely to have something other than a Windows Phone. It’s not clear how far Microsoft plans to go—although you have to imagine Microsoft has broad ambitions here—but the Cortana improvements could be as minimal as supplying that same sort of context in a Word or PowerPoint document. Bringing Cortana to them not only shows the company in a more pragmatic light, but also serves as a good way to introduce users to Windows software, and maybe entice a switch. Elsewhere, Google is finally raving about its quantum supercomputer it co-owns with NASA, but there’s a long way to go before it actually does anything useful.
More importantly Uber users with new Windows 10 app also qualify for a free ride (a credit up to $20) if they use the code MSFTWIN10 under the promotions tab. Back to more conventional tech, and Google has added the ability to look at panoramic photos, and look at them in 3D, using its natty little Cardboard viewer. Microsoft goes on to point out that there are some features from Cortana on Windows Phone that haven’t made the leap yet, such as “Hey Cortana” which we know some testers were found was hogging their microphone access, and Windows hogging something doesn’t sound like something Microsoft would do at all. Richness is a critical aspect of how Microsoft competes with Google Now and Apple’s Siri—the more sophisticated the digital assistant, the more useful it is.
It seems likely that Microsoft will continue to embed Cortana deeply into its core apps—Mail, Calendar, Maps, Edge, and others—with a notable gap on third-party apps like Facebook that it doesn’t directly control. This will send a push notification to the owners handset if someone tries to access a document that they aren’t permitted to so you can quickly grant or deny it with one click. It doesn’t increase the 50,000 track upload ceiling (boo!) and there’s still no sign of Chromecast multiroom set up which we were promised at the same time and is still due ‘before Christmas’.
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