Windows 8.1 is coming to the desktop very soon and early in 2014 Windows Phone will also be updated to 8.1. There probably isn’t much of a connection between the two releases but at least Microsoft’s marketing looks consistent. One of the reported new features for Windows Phone 8.1 is Cortana, a virtual assistant to rival Siri and Google Now.
Cortana, which is named after an artificial intelligent character in Microsoft’s Halo series, will be powered by Microsoft’s “Satori” knowledge repository that is used by Bing. Apparently Microsoft has some grand plans for Cortana and she won’t be limited to just giving you weather updates on your Windows Phone.
It is thought that the new technology (new for Microsoft that is) will be used in future versions of Windows Phone, Windows and the Xbox One operating system. Steve Ballmer hinted at Cortana’s role in his July strategy memo. In the memo he mentioned that Microsoft will be working on “a family of devices powered by a service-enabled shell.” Later in the memo he said this shell would be “based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world.”
Our shell will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it.
The fact that companies like Google, Apple and now Microsoft are developing new interactive technologies is brilliant, but I have one word of warning for Microsoft, consumers have developed high expectations about the quality and functionality of virtual assistants and it would be best for Redmond to ensure that it works well before releasing it. Otherwise they risk being ridiculed for years to come.