Until this point, Siri and Google Now have been battling for the title of best personal voice assistant, but soon Windows Phone users may get a voice-enabled search aide of their own. Microsoft is reportedly readying a Windows Phone 8.1 update that may include a new personal assistant codenamed “Cortana.”
Named after the "Halo" character, the Cortana voice assistant is expected to build upon Windows Phones’ existing basic voice commands with the capability to learn and adapt, according to ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley. The app will use the same knowledge repository that powers Microsoft’s Bing search engine to retrieve answers and complete tasks.
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But Cortana will be more than just a Siri and Google Now competitor. According to Foley’s unnamed contacts, Cortana will be part of Microsoft’s effort to revitalize its umbrella of core services and experiences shared across Windows Phone, the Xbox One and the Windows PC operating system. This “service-enabled shell” will be used to create a more unified experience across devices, as former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hinted in a memo from last July.
This Windows Phone 8.1 update is expected to roll out in early 2014, although Microsoft execs have previously told CNET that this voice assistant technology is more likely to appear anywhere between 2014 and 2016. Screenshots of Windows 8.1 obtained by The Verge show that Microsoft is testing the ability to add weather information, notifications and calendar events to the interface.
These reports come as voice controls and language processing in smartphones continue to advance. Motorola’s new lineup of smartphones, including the Moto X, Droid Ultra and Droid Mini, feature a dedicated processor for interpreting natural language. This means that these devices can be trained to recognize their owners’ voice and recognize commands even when the display is turned off. Meanwhile, the Windows Phone platform has been gaining smartphone market share traction around the globe, although it still has a far way to go to catch up with its iOS and Android competitors.