Get Set For Cortana – The High-End Digital Assistant On Windows Phone!

By | March 11, 2014
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The pre-release buzz about Windows Phone 8.1 is pretty high among general mobile-users, as well as professionals from mobile app companies. Cortana – an all-new mobile virtual assistant – will be making its debut on the platform. It is expected to mount a serious challenge to the popularity of Google Now and Siri.

Android handsets have the efficient Google Now, iPhones have the helpful, witty Siri – and the two voice assistants have been instrumental in enhancing the user-friendliness of the respective mobile platforms. In a bid to keep up, Microsoft has finally decided to implement a similar virtual assistant application (named Cortana) in Windows Phone 8.1 – which is likely to be unveiled within a month or two. Going by the rumors, leaked videos and buzz amongst mobile app developers across the world, the following points about Cortana can be jotted down:

  1. The name – Windows Phone’s much-hyped new voice-assistant shares its name with the central character of Halo – a wildly popular video gaming series. In the game, Cortana has a high level of artificial intelligence, and this would probably be replicated in her mobile version too.

  2. The promise – According to information obtained from The Verge network as well as online videos, Cortana promises to make ‘life a bit easier’ for users. Whether its features indeed manage to rival that of Siri in particular, and iPhone app development in general, remains to be seen though.

  3. The look – Cortana on Windows Phone is expected to carry quite a bit of visual oomph. The digital assistant would take on the figure of a simmering blue female, and there would be a blue ring too – which would get activated whenever Cortana speaks, or even thinks. If you have played Halo 4 before, you probably already have an idea on how Cortana on your smartphone would look like!

  4. Activation – The mobile app designing and features of Cortana have been laid out in a way that, no extra button-presses or screen taps are necessary to activate it. In fact, Cortana will remain active even when the Windows Phone 8.1 is locked. You only have to talk to her, to start getting her responses. Trying to go one up on Siri? Probably!

  5. The first words – After getting the customary ‘Hi, I’m Cortana’ and the promise to make life easier out of the way, the mobile assistant app would proceed to tell users that the latter need to create separate Microsoft accounts. Oh, and she will be able to address mobile-users by their names, nicknames, or even as ‘Master Chief’-s.

  6. Gathering user-information – To compete with Apple’s Siri and Android’s Google Now, Cortana needs to have an intuitive interface and database – and the mobile application development experts at Microsoft have focused on this issue. After you get on the main screen, the assistant will ask you quite a few questions (mostly in multiple-choice formats), about your data-requirements, behavioral traits, and other general topics. Providing customized help is surely the objective of such preliminary questioning.

  7. Privacy concerns – On Windows Phone 8.1, people would have complete freedom of choice about the nature and extent of data they wish to share with Cortana. Prior approvals would be sought by the virtual assistant, before it collects information from your emails, calendars, mobile web history and other sources. It’s up to you to decide how close you will let the blue lady on the phone screen come to your important information databases.

  8. Ability to monitor wi-fi and Bluetooth functions – A common complaint against Siri, received by iPhone application development companies in India and overseas, is that it cannot turn mobile wi-fi and Bluetooth settings on and off. Cortana would probably address this issue (although we can’t be totally certain before the digital assistant makes her debut). It would function in sync with most other controls and functionalities of Windows Phone too.

  9. The search box – The leaked screenshots of Microsoft’s new mobile assistant show a small search box near the bottom of the Cortana screen, with a mic right beside it. People would, in all likelihood, have to speak to that microphone – to spring Cortana into action. Let’s just hope Cortana does not have problems in understanding different accents!

  10. The range of information available – Representatives from mobile application development companies who have caught a sneak peek of Cortana in action, have only positive things to say about its functions. The range of stuff that the Windows Phone assistant can help you with seems impressive enough – ranging right from stock market updates and note-taking, to real-time traffic updates, reminders, and task and appointment-scheduling. There is a small weather widget on the Cortana screen as well.

  11. The Quiet Hours Mode – In Cortana’s final form, this might also be known as the ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode. If you are in an important meeting, or rushing to finish up an assignment – you can activate this mode, and let the virtual assistant take care of all the voice calls and messages for the required time-span. You can even sort the communication modes to be left active under the Quiet Hours mode.

  12. Turning off notifications and suggestions – Much like Google Now, Cortana would focus on providing only relevant, contextual information to users. You would be able to turn off push-notifications, email alerts and/or flight-information – whenever you do not need them. Its purpose is not to disturb you with a deluge of push-notifications – you will get only what you want from the assistant.

The current voice search mechanism on Windows Phone has not been favorably reviewed by most users, and Cortana is almost sure to be a vast improvement. Nokia Moneypenny and Nokia Goldfinger are the devices on which the new mobile OS (and the digital assistant) are expected to make its debut. Provided that it does not botch up things as the initial version of Siri did, and that it remains uniformly user-friendly, Cortana does seem to have the potential to compete with its already established rivals.

 

Let’s just wait and see whether Cortana sizzles or fizzles out, what say?

 

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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