If any question remains as to just how much Microsoft’s attitude has changed under CEO Satya Nadella, it has just been answered in the most definitive way: The Verge writes that Redmond’s digital assistant Cortana is coming to Android and iOS-powered devices as a standalone app. The Microsoft of just a few years ago wouldn’t have even considered such anathema.
Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri; she is a digital personal assistant for Windows phones which attempts to help out as organically and naturally as possible by providing answers to spoken questions, searching using voice commands and even reading emails aloud to Windows phone users. She’s essentially an artificial intelligence that helps make using Windows phones easier.
That she will be appearing on non-Windows devices isn’t entirely unexpected as Microsoft hinted last year that it would happen, just without giving any specifics.
Eric Horvitz, the managing director over at Microsoft Research said in an interview with Reuters that “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.” That’s September-ish for us southern hemisphere-dwellers.
Cortana uses a combination of machine learning and data mining in order to return answers, and the more data she has, the better she gets. That’s why getting her onto more devices than just Windows PCs and phones is so important because there are nowhere near as many Windows Phones as there are Android and iOS phones, and Windows 10 (into which Cortana will be incorporated) is not yet released.
At the moment, Cortana’s best parlour trick is to provide English Premiership League predictions; simply ask her “Who will win the match between [Premiership soccer team here] and [Premiership soccer team here]?” and she will crunch numbers to give you an answer.
While she struggles to predict draws of matches that don’t end in draws, she was accurate 75% of the time in an article written by Digital Spy that pit her against Siri.
With more people using Cortana in the future, and more data to mine and improved learning abilities, Cortana can only get better, and clearly that’s what Microsoft is aiming for with this newest development.