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.
Leveraging the personal assistant Cortana, Microsoft has announced on the Windows Blog that Windows 10 will be coming to a Windows PC or tablet near you on July 29th. The announcement comes days after another significant build was released to Windows Insiders, a build that feels far more stable and complete than previous builds. It is clear that Microsoft is making major steps forward in the Windows 10 development and they in large part thank the Windows Insiders (all 4 million of them) for the rapid development cycle. Still, with the release now 59 days away, there is a lot for the company to do to get things ready.
In a lengthy and revealing interview, Microsoft’s Eric Horvitz has indicated that the personal assistant Cortana will be making her way to iOS and Android in the future as a standalone app. As most Windows and Windows Phone users will know, Cortana is a part of Windows Phone today (Lumia Cyan and higher) while she will be coming to Windows 10 on the PC and tablet when it is released later this year. It is a surprise in some ways as this has been a differentiation point for Windows Phone in particular. But equally, with Microsoft pushing more and more to being the app company regardless of the device you use, it isn’t too shocking.
Last month I posted that a new Movies and Trailers section in Cortana had been become available here in the United States. At the time it could be turned on but there was no content populated in that section of the Personal Assistant on Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Technical Preview. That seems to have changed today on both platforms.
Now if you open up Cortana and have the Movies and Trailers section enabled under Interests you will see movies that Cortana thinks you might be interested in along with show times of theaters near you for that movie.
The evolution of Cortana continues at a rapid pace with the Personal Assistant continuing to get more information of interest to you and bringing it to the fore. If fact the biggest problem with the updates to Cortana is they happening so fast that they often get missed until you discover them by accident. That may be the case with the new edition of Showtimes + Trailers and Concert Watch which now appear in the Interests settings of Cortana. As the names suggest, you can now get movie show times and trailers for new movies in your area while the Concert Watch allows you to get concert information on your favorite bands when they are going to be in your area.
The personal assistant Cortana that is built into Windows Phones running Lumia Denim and is now in the Windows 10 technical preview continues to get mini, behind-the-scenes updates. The latest update now brings the ability to read out loud instant answers to your questions. To this point, when you asked a question like “What time is it?” Cortana would simply display the current time. Now when you ask the same question, it reads out the time based on your location.
The Personal Assistant Cortana that is built into Windows 10 and Windows Phone has a new Interests category that will allow you to track everything from workouts to concerts. But this new feature isn’t available to everyone and there is no indication on when everyone will see it. It’s another way that Microsoft continues to make the service more personalized for every individual user.
Foursquare has released a minor update to their Windows Phone app that addresses issues around the app’s Cortana integration. The update, version 184.108.40.206 for those keeping score at home, has only one issue that is addressed in their release notes: Addresses an issue when opening places for Cortana. It is not clear how widespread the problem has been or if it was specific to particular devices. Regardless, if you use the app, get the update to avoid any potential problems.