Microsoft Announces Siri Competitor Cortana, Coming With Windows Phone 8.1

Microsoft today announced Windows Phone 8.1, which comes equipped with the company's digital assistant, Cortana. In development for several years, Cortana is Microsoft's answer to Siri and Google Now, the digital assistants from Apple and Google.

Cortana is named for an AI character in the popular Halo video game series and as in the game, the assistant is voiced by actress Jen Taylor. Given a distinctly female personality, she is powered by Microsoft's search engine, Bing, and is designed to learn about users by asking questions and monitoring user activity, interacting through both text and speech.

cortana
According to an extensive piece on Cortana from The Verge, Microsoft designed the feature based on real personal assistants, giving Cortana a "Notebook" to work from. The Notebook can be described as a settings page, allowing users to designate what Cortana can track. In her Notebook, Cortana stores information like personal interests, relationships with people, frequently visited places, appointment dates, quiet hours, and more.

"It's her view of you, but clearly you can just snatch it from her at any time and say 'That’s not right, I don't want you to know this' or 'I'm not comfortable with you reading my email,'" explains Ash. "So you have complete control over what she knows and she’s transparent about it."

Entries in the Notebook are stored in the cloud, and you can share contact information with it, as well as your interests, home and work locations, and more. The notion of Cortana acting as a personal assistant with a notebook— as opposed to a creepy stalker — has been drilled into the team from the beginning, they say.

Cortana is a core function of Windows Phone 8.1, replacing the existing search function. Like Siri she can schedule reminders, but Cortana's functionality is somewhat more powerful, allowing reminders to be tied to people and locations. For example, Cortana can be asked to give a reminder to discuss a certain topic when calling a contact, with that reminder popping up when a call is placed.

The digital assistant also offers a daily summary of information, similar to what can be found in Apple's own Notification Center. Cortana lists upcoming appointments, reminders, weather information, and more. She can, with permission, track user email to pull out information like airline reservations.

Like Siri, Cortana has a personality. She has witty responses for certain questions, such as "Who is your father?" to which she replies, "Technically speaking, that'd be Bill Gates. No big deal." Displayed as a circle on a phone screen, she's also able to express 16 different emotions.

While Siri has not been opened up to developers, Microsoft is releasing a third-party SDK. Cortana will integrate with services like Hulu, Twitter, Facebook, allowing people to use voice commands to launch television shows or send a tweet.

Cortana remains in the beta stages, as there are bugs with the software that still need to be worked out. Windows Phone 8.1 will launch in late April or early May, but Cortana will only be available in the United States for the time being.

Microsoft also announced that it is making Windows licenses free for mobile phones and tablets that have screens of less than nine inches, putting it on par with Google's Android, which is offered to device manufacturers for free.

Top Rated Comments

KieranDotW Avatar
99 months ago
I just wish they'd get rid of Siri all together. I was probably one of the first people to turn it off on the iphone 4S.

If you can just turn it off, why do you care that other people have Siri on their phones?
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Spanky Deluxe Avatar
99 months ago
Oh hai, Microsoft! Welcome to 2011!
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Vacheron Avatar
99 months ago
This will probably put Siri in third place.
Score: 36 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dBeats Avatar
99 months ago
Where's a good place to find Thai food around here?

"Just a sec......


....hmm that's strange....


....uh oh....


A fatal exception OE has occurred at 0028:C0011E36 in VXD VMM(1) + 00010E36. The current application will be terminated.

* Press any key to terminate the current application.
* Press CTRL+ALT+DEL again to restart your computer. You will lose any unsaved information in all your applications.

Press any key to continue _ "


I knew this Windows phone thing was a bad idea...
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Goldfrapp Avatar
99 months ago
Very exotic-sounding name. When I hear 'Cortana', I envision an Amazonian woman wearing leopard skin around her hips with large juicy breasts.

CORRRR-TANA!!
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kenrik Avatar
99 months ago
Nice "halo" throwback with the name.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
iphone 13 teal with text

Apple Begins Preparation for iPhone 13 Production Ahead of Fall Launch

Monday June 28, 2021 3:29 am PDT by
We're just a few months away from when Apple is expected to reveal the 2021 iPhone, dubbed the "iPhone 13." In preparation for its launch, it has been pulling in shipments of different components needed to produce the new iPhones, according to a report from DigiTimes. In years past, Apple released its latest iPhone lineup, alongside a new Apple Watch, during a September event at Apple Park....
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
bluetti eb70 main

MacRumors Giveaway: Win a Bluetti EB70 Portable Power Station and 200W Solar Panel

Friday September 3, 2021 11:13 am PDT by
For this week's giveaway, we've teamed up with MAXOAK to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win a Bluetti portable power station and an accompanying solar panel. Bluetti makes a range of portable power station options that are useful for camping, emergencies, power outages, off-grid living, and similar situations. The Bluetti EB70 is a solid middle of the road option that offers 716Wh and...
apple privacy

Apple Publishes FAQ to Address Concerns About CSAM Detection and Messages Scanning

Monday August 9, 2021 1:50 am PDT by
Apple has published a FAQ titled "Expanded Protections for Children" which aims to allay users' privacy concerns about the new CSAM detection in iCloud Photos and communication safety for Messages features that the company announced last week. "Since we announced these features, many stakeholders including privacy organizations and child safety organizations have expressed their support of...
macos catalina legacy system extension alert

Apple Begins Warning Users That 'Legacy System Extensions' Won't Work With a Future Version of macOS

Wednesday March 25, 2020 9:53 am PDT by
Apple has shared a new support document that indicates kernel extensions — which it calls "legacy system extensions" — will not be compatible with a future version of macOS because they "aren't as secure or reliable as modern alternatives."System extensions are a category of software that works in the background to extend the functionality of your Mac. Some apps install kernel extensions, which...
General Spotify Feature

Spotify Pauses Plans to Add AirPlay 2 Support to iOS App [Update: Spotify Clarifies]

Friday August 6, 2021 9:07 am PDT by
See update at bottom of article Spotify this week confirmed that its plans to add AirPlay 2 support to its iOS app have been placed on indefinite hiatus. In an online discussion forum post, a Spotify representative said the streaming music service had been working on supporting AirPlay 2, but the company has paused the efforts "for now" due to "audio driver compatibility issues." The...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
os x mountain lion macs 16x9 2

Apple Makes OS X Lion and Mountain Lion Free to Download

Wednesday June 30, 2021 12:19 pm PDT by
Apple recently dropped the $19.99 fee for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, making the older Mac updates free to download, reports Macworld. Apple has kept OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion available for customers who have machines limited to the older software, but until recently, Apple was charging $19.99 to get download codes for the updates. As of last week, these updates no...
Pixel Stand 23W 668x445

Google Pixel 6 Rumored to Support 23W Wireless Charging, Beating iPhone 12's MagSafe

Wednesday September 1, 2021 1:54 am PDT by
Google is rumored to be working on a new wireless charging stand that could deliver 23W of charging power to its upcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones, according to a leaked inventory image published by Android Police. Image via Android Police. If true, that would beat the iPhone 12's maximum 15W wireless charging speed (or 12W on ‌iPhone 12 mini‌) using Apple's MagSafe charger, and...