I have spent the better part of the last three weeks I have all but completely immersed myself in Windows Phone having been exclusively iOS for the past four years. I’ve tried to turn every knob, pull every lever and use every feature not only so I can share that here but also I can get myself back into the swing of this platform. In the middle of all this fun came Windows Phone 8.1 and then, for me, Update 1 via the Preview for Developer app. That meant that for me living in the UK, I could sample Cortana, the new personal assistant from Microsoft.
After getting Update 1 installed on my Lumia 1320, what is the first thing I do? I test out Cortana of course! What’s the second thing I do? Compare it to Siri of course. The results? Cortana pretty much kicks Siri to the curb. Every time.
So keep in mind that Siri was released on 4 October 2011, nearly three years ago. Cortana is in beta technically although the operability of the app certainly doesn’t feel beta. A few weeks ago I posted over on AlliOSNews how Google was kicking the ass of Siri. I stand by that article and at the time I wrote it, I had not picked up a Windows Phone with Cortana. While I still personally think that Google is ahead of Cortana, Cortana itself is well ahead of Siri at this point.
Where Cortana beats Siri is in speech recognition and in the quality of the information being provided back to you by the app. Cortana almost always recognises what I’m asking for on the first try. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a room with background noise or in the quite space of my office. It always seems to figure it out. Siri on the other hand I find myself yelling at my iPhone and ar-tic-u-late-ing every word to get it to understand. Google in my view is still king when it comes to speech recognition but Microsoft isn’t far behind.
Second comes the quality of the content. It isn’t necessarily that Siri doesn’t provide what you want (although this happens a reasonable amount) but it is the quality of the surrounding content that makes the difference. For example, this morning I asked Siri and Cortana a simple question: Where is the nearest Starbucks?
To be fair, both were able to do the search with no problem and both did it accurately the first time. In the case of Siri, it came back
with were the closest Starbucks was to me and provided a map.
The same search with Cortana also provided me a map but so much more detail. I have a button for directions, I have a phone number button and I have a more accurate measurement of the distance the shop is away from me. Siri tells me it’s pretty close while Cortana tells me it is less than a mile away. It is this more immersive answer that makes this a true personal assistant rather than simply a search tool or hard-to-figure-out percentages calculator.
But I will go a step further and suggest that Cortana, when it comes to this immersive content, is ahead of the game over Google. I did the same search for a Starbucks this morning on Google Search app for iPhone. To the left are my results. It provided me with more than one option (but I don’t really need that – I asked where the closest Starbucks was to me) and gives me links to call and get directions. It’s pretty similar to what Cortana provided me.
It’s more than just finding coffee that makes Cortana. It is the surrounding content of my daily life that it knows to give me a far more personalised experience. The app pays attention to my diary, my inbox and even provides me reminders when I’m talking with people about key events for them such as a promotion (thanks to LinkedIn) or their birthday (thanks to Facebook). The app also learns about me. It learns about my searches (thanks to Bing), my stocks, my locations so it can give me traffic information in real time and even can update me on sports scores, most of which I can do without having to ask for it. Cortana simply provides it.
Statistically we spend more time with our mobile devices than we do our spouse or significant other. That means the demands of applications and services in those devices will continue to grow – exponentially in some cases. It is apps like Cortana, Siri and Google Search that will make these devices more personal and usable while we go through the day.
I been referring to Windows Phone as the Little OS That Could. I like the platform and it has a lot going for it. But it also has a lot of distractors. If Microsoft get Cortana right and it truly becomes the personal assistant they are aiming to be, this one app could very well set Windows Phone for success in the market. I believe in it that much. Sure it still a little rough around the edges but it is getting better as it learns.
And Cortana is well ahead of where Siri is after nearly 3 years.