Cortana: Tactical AI… and Digital Assistant?

By September 13, 2013

Cortana is blue, Windows Phone 8.1 is codenamed Blue. Why not put Cortana in Windows Phone 8.1?


For those of you expecting an announcement about some sort of a weird Cortana-as-a-main-character-or-maybe-secretary Halo sidestory for Windows Phone, you may feel a little misled. What I’m really here to tell you about is something far more useful, and perhaps more game-changing. (Not changing Halo as a game, but you know…”the Game,” and not that game.) Microsoft appears to be prepping their own digital assistant which could potentially blow away all the others if it’s as fantastic as rumors say it is. Sorry, Siri.

Codenamed Cortana and named after Master Chief’s on-again-off-again AI travelling companion, the digital assistant shell promises to be “more revolutionary than evolutionary,” according to one of the executives at Bing. What has been revealed so far implies that Cortana will not run as an app, like Siri, but will act as a shell on top of the Windows Phone OS as we know it. This means that it will be possible to bring her functions into every aspect of the OS, instead of having an assistant that is essentially walled off from everything else.

It has been implied that this shell will be launched on all Microsoft’s platforms: Phone, tablet, PC, Xbox. This move may truly unify the platforms beyond anything we’ve seen before. SmartGlass is okay, but imagine having Cortana being aware of your other devices: “Do you want me to send this webpage to your phone’s browser?” Maybe it won’t be quite that deep, but a man can dream, can’t he?

I won’t count that possibility out, because Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has pretty much said to expect great things out of Cortana, which is likely a part of the “One Microsoft” movement:

“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. 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.”

I don’t really like his use of the word “magical” there, but aside from that, I think we should expect big things. Perhaps it will feel magical, in a way, if it’s good enough. They’ll reportedly be leveraging their TellMe voice functions, which is already present within Windows Phone (and I really wish were a part of the tablet OS). I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they built Outlook Task, Calendar, and Scheduling functions straight in.

Have you noticed that a lot of upcoming tech seems more and more like what we’ve seen in the sci-fi movies and games we’ve been watching and playing all these years? I love the concept of ‘Cortana the Digital Assistant’, but I’m going to rein in my excitement until they build it into the first working line of MJOLNIR armor.

Windows Phone may finally be getting a truly “killer app”… Even if it does turn out a bit Rampant.

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Bryan is a tech and gadget geek, as well as a fan of media in all its forms. Film, music, games, you name it. He also has a deep love for nearly all things indie, because sometimes the little fish have the biggest adventures. You can find him as @DieselBT pretty much anywhere on the internet.