Microsoft Releases Public Beta of Cortana for Android

The personal assistant wars may be getting, well, personal.  Microsoft has released a public beta of Cortana, the personal assistant found in Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile, to the Google Play Store for Android users.  Cortana is aimed to compete against Google Now for your quick search, information and reminders on your phone just like Now does.  For the longest time, Cortana was exclusive to Windows Phone 8.1 and recently made its desktop debut in Windows 10 and both allow you to simply ask your device a question starting with “Hey Cortana” and you can search anything on your PC or the Internet.  Sound familiar?  It should.  If you have used Google Now, you will see the direct competitive nature of this to “OK, Google” that you ask your phone today.

The release of Cortana to Android was a surprise to many as it is a core technology of Windows and frankly was a differentiation point for Windows Phone in the past.  The Redmond company however is sticking by it’s “Mobile First” mantra and releasing many apps and services on competing platforms as they transition themselves into the app company regardless of the device you

Cortana for Android
Cortana for Android

use.  Cortana was a logical step and given the news that many Google Now employees are not pleased with the recent appointment of CEO Sundar Pichai at Google, it could be a prime time for Microsoft to make a splash.

Cortana for Android is beta so if you are not comfortable with beta software, wait a few weeks until the official release is posted.  For those who are interested, you need to sign up on the Cortana beta page where you will get access to the beta code.  Be warned that it will take a few hours from sign up before your account is updated on Google and you can download the bits.  Also keep in mind that this beta is US only at the moment.

One key difference between Cortana and Google Now is the always listening mode.  On your Android phone with the Google Now launcher installed, your phone is constantly listening for “OK, Google”.  But because of limitations, Cortana cannot do this so you have to have the app open to use the “Hey Cortana” feature.  You can however have Cortana launch from your Home button instead of Google Now if you want to do so.