Although I'm a diehard Windows user, I have to admit that I don't have a Windows Phone 8 — and so haven't had an opportunity to experiment with Cortana. Instead, I use an iPhone. I got shanghaied into the world of Apple by my wife and daughters who each had a fourth generation iPod Touch. When it came time for us to renew our cell phone contract, our local carrier had started offering iPhones, and the girls all wanted to trade in their old phones for iPhones, since they worked very much like the iPods. The family plan package made sense, and I had actually become enamored with the iPods, so we all got iPhones instead of Windows Phones. Now, while the iPhone and iPods have become an integral part of our life, every computer in the house runs Windows. I can only be pushed so far.
My point in relating this little story is to provide background for saying that I absolutely love having Siri, Apple's voice-activated virtual assistant, at my beck and call. I use Siri all the time for all kinds of things. I ask for directions, about restaurants, movie times, sports scores, and lots of other things. I even use Siri to read and dictate text messages. I've found that using an interactive voice response system on my phone has become an invaluable tool in my day-to-day life.
As you know, Microsoft recently added a voice-activated virtual assistant, named Cortana, to the Windows Phone. Thus far, it's received positive feedback. So, when I heard rumors that Cortana was coming to Windows 10, I was extremely excited. Being able to talk to my PC and have it perform all sorts of tasks would be an extremely cool and useful feature. The multitasking possibilities would be endless.
However, we haven't seen any real user interface evidence of Cortana in the three Technical Preview builds of Windows 10. Recently, the folks at WinBeta got a hold of a copy of the leaked Build 9888 of Windows 10. They discovered that it features Cortana and posted a video of the virtual assistant in action. In the video, which shows a very early and incomplete version of the implementation, we can see that Cortana on the desktop will be able to do just about everything that Cortana on the Windows Phone can do. For instance, Cortana will be able to set up reminders, initiate Skype sessions, provide map directions, play music, check the weather, launch apps, and much more.
Hopefully, when Microsoft returns to releasing new preview editions of Windows 10 in 2015 with the January Technical Preview, as reported on ZDNet, we'll see an updated and more full featured version of Cortana for the desktop.
Who is Cortana?
In case you're wondering, the Cortana virtual assistant in Windows is named after the artificially intelligent character in the Halo video game series. The folks at Engadget recently published a very nice article on Cortana and the Microsoft team that developed the virtual assistant.
What's your take?
Do you think that having Cortana on the desktop in Windows 10 will be useful? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.