Windows 10 Brings Cortana to Desktop

Microsoft is showing off more new features of its upcoming Windows 10 operating system today, and possibly the most exciting of these is Cortana for PCs. With Cortana on the desktop, you'll be able to get the voice-controlled digital assistant for easier hands-free interaction. The voice assistant will be available over the next few months via the Windows Insider program for those who wish to test early versions of the next OS.

Cortana will work a little differently on the PC than on smartphones. It will be able to search your hard drive for specific files, pull up PowerPoint slides, and serve up photos from specific dates or events based on your query. During his demonstration, Microsoft's Joe Belfiore asked Cortana, "Hey Cortana, show me PowerPoint slides on the charity auction," and the system returned the presentation almost instantly. 

MORE: Digital Assistant Showdown: Cortana vs Siri vs Google Now

Belfiore says Cortana on the PC could become a new "extra member of the family." He expects people will begin shouting commands at their computers, such as "play music" or "be quiet" from their living rooms, making the device seem like an actual human assistant. 

While it seemed like Belfiore activated Cortana by saying, "Hey Cortana" during the event, it's not clear yet if that will be the trigger phrase to get Cortana to listen. If that's true, it could mean that Microsoft's voice assistant might have an always-on feature that listens for that phrase. 

Belfiore was also quick to note that while Cortana remembers a lot of your personal information, such as calendar appointments, upcoming flights and searches, you have control over what she records. He asked the assistant, "What do you know about me?" Cortana responded, "I know what you know you let me know, you know?"

Cherlynn Low
Staff Writer
Cherlynn joined the Laptopmag team in June 2013 and has since been writing about all things tech and digital with a focus on mobile and Internet software development. She also edits and reports occasionally on video. She graduated with a M.S. in Journalism (Broadcast) from Columbia University in May 2013 and has been designing personal websites since 2001.