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Microsoft’s assistant software may not be as well-known as Google Now or Apple’s Siri, but Cortana – which has been shipping on Windows phones for the past year – will eventually be made available as a standalone application, according to sources familiar with the project. Both Android and iOS smartphones and tablets could be able to make use of Microsoft’s system in the future.

Microsoft is also said to be working on a more advanced version of Cortana, using research from an artificial intelligence project named Einstein. Apparently, the aim is to build upon speech recognition, reading and understanding of emails, and machine learning, in order to become more predictive. Examples given include automatically checking flight status or traffic conditions on before you leave for work. This sounds similar to what Google has been attempting to do with cards for its Now service.

“We’re defining the competitive landscape… of who can provide the most supportive services that make life easier, keep track of things, that complement human memory in a way that helps us get things done,” – Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research and a part of the Einstein project

If true, this wouldn’t be the first time that Microsoft has opened up its software to competing operating systems. The Microsoft Office suite has made its way to Android for free this year, as has an Excel optimized keyboard. For Microsoft, which has a small share of the mobile market, this could be part of a strategy to win back consumers for its operating system and/or software packages, or at least to keep the company relevant for general consumers.