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Microsoft May Be Launching Siri Competitor in 2014

By - Source: ZDNet | B 28 comments

Her name is Cortana, and she'll likely spread out across all Microsoft devices.

Microsoft is unsurprisingly building its own personal assistant to compete with Apple's Siri and Google's impersonal Google Now platform. The virtual assistant will be called Cortana, named after the artificially intelligent character in the Halo series who can learn and adapt. Cortana will supposedly help tie all Windows 8 platforms together including Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1, Windows RT 8.1 and Xbox One.

Cortana first made an appearance back in June as an app called zCortana in a leaked build of Windows Phone; the "z" designation meant she was merely a test build. Now Cortana has returned, conveniently close to the launch of all four platforms mentioned above. She'll reportedly rely on machine-learning technology and the "Satori" knowledge repository powering Microsoft's search engine, Bing.

Sources claim that Cortana will be the central key feature in Microsoft's makeover of the entire Windows 8 "shell" experience, and will appear in future versions of Windows Phone, Windows and Xbox One operating systems. Even Steve Ballmer hinted to her virtual existence in a strategy memo back in July, saying that the company's family of devices will be powered by "a service-enabled shell" going forward.

"Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world," he said. "Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it."

"It is more than what we think of as the shell today, and no current label really fits where we are headed," he added. "Neither the desktop nor the social graph describes this new experience, and neither does the search box, the pin board or the file system. The shell will support the experiences layer and broker information among our services to bring them together on our devices in ways that will enable richer and deeper app experiences."

Whether Cortana appears next month fully dressed or not until 2014 is anyone's guess, but for Microsoft, the sooner the better. Windows Phone 8.1 isn't actually slated to arrive until 2014 anyway, and the updated mobile platform seems like a likely place for Cortana to make her grand entrance. Still, it would be impressive to have a newly-purchased Xbox One to talk back in a sexy voice right out of the box this holiday season.

ZDNet reports that Ballmer has been publicly talking about an AI assistant since 2011, saying that users would be able to verbally tell their Windows PC to print a boarding pass on Southwest Airlines. This assistant would rely on Bing, Telltime speech technology, and some combination of language-plus-social graph. That indicates Microsoft isn't necessarily pairing Windows Phone with Cortana on her first date.

Yet other Microsoft execs said such a technology would not be available until 2014, 2016 at the latest. They would rather wait to have something revolutionary than something evolutionary. We'll find out next month; let's just hope she doesn't have the personality of a paperclip.

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  • 13 Hide
    SchizoFrog , September 15, 2013 7:31 AM
    If MS integrate 'Cortana' across the board within their ecosystem I and it actually works from launch I can see this being very good and could be the start of not only using voice commands for basic commands and questions but total voice controlled computing.

    As for the name, personally I feel silly saying the word 'Siri' out loud. I think it sounds like someone trying to say 'Sorry' while drunk. The name has to be a rare word/name to avoid inadvertent activations.
  • 10 Hide
    halcyon , September 15, 2013 7:46 AM
    Could be cool. Cortana also was pretty attractive for an AI, if I recall...not that that's relevant.
Other Comments
  • 13 Hide
    SchizoFrog , September 15, 2013 7:31 AM
    If MS integrate 'Cortana' across the board within their ecosystem I and it actually works from launch I can see this being very good and could be the start of not only using voice commands for basic commands and questions but total voice controlled computing.

    As for the name, personally I feel silly saying the word 'Siri' out loud. I think it sounds like someone trying to say 'Sorry' while drunk. The name has to be a rare word/name to avoid inadvertent activations.
  • 10 Hide
    halcyon , September 15, 2013 7:46 AM
    Could be cool. Cortana also was pretty attractive for an AI, if I recall...not that that's relevant.
  • 4 Hide
    MfastPrincess , September 15, 2013 7:47 AM
    Haha - thank goodness. Siri is cool, but I have no desire to ever buy apple products. Cool article.
  • -1 Hide
    mortonww , September 15, 2013 7:54 AM
    2014? So...too late?
  • 1 Hide
    edwd2 , September 15, 2013 8:07 AM
    If only we can customize her appearance haha
  • -2 Hide
    mortonww , September 15, 2013 8:08 AM
    2014? So...too late?
  • 1 Hide
    Patrick Tobin , September 15, 2013 9:49 AM
    I think this will be great. I love my Windows Phone. I would never switch back to Android or iOS unless something fairly big happens.
  • 0 Hide
    Patrick Tobin , September 15, 2013 9:53 AM
    I hope they change the xbox to work the same way and no longer have to sound retarded by saying "XBOX!" :rolleyes:
  • 2 Hide
    digiex , September 15, 2013 10:07 AM
    I hate it when I am talking to a thing. It is like talking to myself.
  • 6 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , September 15, 2013 11:31 AM
    If they get Cortana's voice actress to come in and do voice work for this, I'll buy a Windows Phone for sure. I'm already leaning towards a Nokia Lumia because I love the cameras, this would put Windows Phone over the top for me.
  • 0 Hide
    joaompp , September 15, 2013 1:37 PM
    watch, they're saying cortana now but when they release it it's actually going to be clippy from M$ office, or worse, M$ Bob.
  • 0 Hide
    coolitic , September 15, 2013 1:42 PM
    They should change the name. Even though it is part of Halo, "Cortana" just doesn't go with this kind of thing.
  • 0 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , September 15, 2013 2:01 PM
    Good God, Microsoft can we just get another Halo ported to PC? Using the name Cortana is evil!
  • 2 Hide
    falchard , September 15, 2013 2:22 PM
    I smell a Windows Commercial with Steve Blum: "Cortana, find me the nearest Jack in the Box", "Cortana, I have a really weird rash on my stomach" ...
  • -2 Hide
    tomfreak , September 15, 2013 5:26 PM
    Please make a version for Desktop/Laptop that is significant smarter by using the power of i7/AMD-FX CPU(that can be use offline). Then it may have reason for casual user to keep buying Ivy-E/AMD-FX just to make their computer smarter. (Intel/AMD will like this)
  • -1 Hide
    jhansonxi , September 15, 2013 5:28 PM
    Quote:
    If they get Cortana's voice actress to come in and do voice work for this, I'll buy a Windows Phone for sure.

    My requirements for a phone are more technical than the particular voice used in an IPA. Besides, they can easily use someone from the NSA and get paid for it.
  • 0 Hide
    mcd023 , September 15, 2013 6:17 PM
    If they kept the VA and the name, that would certainly put it over the top for a nerd like me. However, I think that "Cortana" is too nerdy for the general populous, so I'm guessing that they'll probably change it. I really do hope that they keep the name and the VA, though XD

  • 2 Hide
    back_by_demand , September 15, 2013 10:57 PM
    If they use an actual voice actor they should maybe switch to a man instead and use Morgan Freeman, that would just be epic
  • 1 Hide
    back_by_demand , September 15, 2013 11:00 PM
    If they must use a female voice, use Mariella Frostrup (who? say everyone outside the UK) as she has the sexiest voice ever
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