Apple has Siri. Google has Google Now. So where’s Microsoft’s voice-controlled virtual assistant? It turns out the answer may have been right under our noses for a while now, as details of the company’s efforts to develop the system it calls “Cortana” (yes, like in Halo) emerge.
Back in June we told you about the discovery of a Lumia 920 found on eBay that was apparently still loaded with in-development Microsoft software, including an early Windows Phone 8.1 build. We were drawn to things like the notification center, but there was one app that largely went overlooked: Cortana (or, rather, “zCortana,” as the incomplete app was identified).
Cortana will apparently leverage Bing’s Satori knowledge database to answer questions and perform tasks in much the same way as we use the Siris and Nows of the world. Screenshots reveal a number of configuration options, letting the service control a bunch of phone systems, deliver alerts based on configured rules, and anticipate certain actions based on the specific context of use.
Assuming Microsoft keeps development on track, Cortana could become available with the release of Windows Phone 8.1 sometime early next year.