Let’s uncurl our fists of annoyance and admit the obvious: Microsoft has been aggressively and successfully reinventing itself. Even amid criticism over its Windows 8 operating system, which mostly stems from user reluctance in taking the time to learn the ins and outs of 8.1, and flack over the XBox One’s spec and peripheral hiccups, the company is in general on a positive path toward innovation. Such bold moves seldom occur without a few stumbles along the way.
And now the icing on the cake, Cortana.
An already popular and widely recognized artificial intelligence character from the video game franchise Halo, Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Google Now and Apple’s Siri.
And boy is Cortana the right choice. Instead of a faceless Siri, and a perfunctory Google Now interface, Microsoft opted for futuristic sex appeal, and for the first time giving the voice controlled digital assistant category a real sense of personality…not to mention a sizable set of…well, you get the idea.
Even more impressive are the added features and capabilities Microsoft is endowing (no pun intended ; ) Cortana. Part of a Windows Phone 8.1 update sometime in April, Cortana replaces the search button and utilizes Microsoft’s Bing search engine. According to a recent USA Today article, Cortana will be able to “make phone calls, send texts, take a note or give you a reminder.”
Unlike Siri, Cortana will also be able to learn, and eventually predict, your unique data needs and device uses through a complementary “Notebook” function. And according to Gizmodo, Cortana will be able to provide “contextual reminders that will [notify]you of a specific thing when you’re talking to a specific person, or the ability to add specific shows to your queue on Hulu Plus, all by voice.”
Now, if you find some of these features a bit too intrusive, Microsoft (or should I rather say, Cortana) will allow you to disable most of Cortana’s eavesdropping and AI learning capabilities.
In sum, Cortana is a welcome addition to Microsoft’s foray into the cellular phone market. Let’s just hope they get this one right the first time.