Microsoft's next version of it’s Windows Phone Operating system (Windows Phone 8.1) will come with an assistant much like what has been available on iPhone in the form of Siri or on Google Android handsets as Google Now. Microsoft have been working on Cortana the name for the new digital assistant for over a year now and are planning to reveal the feature at the company's upcoming ‘Build’ conference along with a developer preview of Windows 8.1.
Cortana will replace the current built-in Bing search functionality currently found on Windows Phone Operating systems. Whilst the name Cortana comes from a female fictional artificial intelligence character from Halo, it is thought that Cortana will be represented by a circle rather than adopting a female like appearance. Upon interacting with Cortana the circle icon will animate based on whether it’s thinking or speaking.
Although Microsoft have been using the name Cortana internally during the development it is unclear whether it plans to keep the name Cortana or use some other moniker upon launch. Much in the same way that Siri allows you to customize how you want to be addressed you will be able to set how you wish to be addressed by Cortana, and whether by name or a nickname. Cortana will use a notebook feature that allows it to save and store data and access such things as location, personal information, reminders and much more. It has also been announced that Cortana will have some Google Now like features including the ability to track flights.
The Cortana service will be backed by services such as Bing and Foursquare which will enable it to have some of the contextual power similar to that found in Google Now. How it performs in relation to Siri and Google Now remains to be seen but it’s definitely a step in the right direction for the struggling Windows Phone OS.