When Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-activated assistant, was first introduced to the world, it was predicted that it would be cross-platform and available across a variety of devices, including laptops and the Xbox. While Cortana is currently a standout feature in Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 operating system, it hasn’t made its way to other Microsoft operating systems yet. According to statements made by Marcus Ash, a Microsoft employee and Cortana manager, not only might Cortana be headed for Windows 8, but it also could be ported to iOS and Android at some point in the future.
A video from the SMX search marketing conference last week finds Ash expanding on challenges facing Cortana and its adoption. For instance, how do you reach the the customers who use Microsoft software on the desktop but not on a mobile device? Ash talked about Cortana as a major reason for a consumer to adopt Windows Phone over other platforms, but didn’t rule an Android or iOS port out.
Clarifying his position later in a long comment posted on Windows Phone Central, Ash explained Cortana would likely make its way to Microsoft’s desktop platform before iOS or Android:
“We are actively thinking about what it takes to expand Cortana to Windows devices. Nothing official to report but we want our Windows device customers to experience Cortana at some point in the future.”
Ash also suggested that one day, personal assistants might be a a reason to choose one platform over another: “If you play this out five to ten years, and these assistants become the reason you choose Android or iOS or Windows, then what’s our [cross-platform] position?”
Google and Apple have different approaches to this exact problem. Google Now is available on most major platforms, including through Chrome notifications or its Google search app on iOS, and it gets prominent placement on Android handsets. Siri is limited to iOS, although Apple has started to incorporate more of a voice interface into OS X Mavericks. It’s hard to imagine Siri ever being released as a standalone Windows Phone app.
Cortana is a hybrid of Google Now and Siri’s features, and although it’s still in beta, it’s a great piece of software. Combining contextual alerts and a voice interface works extremely well on the phone — but as more attention is paid to set-top boxes and wearable technology, it could find a solid niche in those areas as well. Microsoft keeping the door open to cross-platform implementations is a smart move.
However, that doesn’t mean Windows Phone will be an afterthought, even if it remains in third place in the market. According to a tweet sent by Ash, Cortana’s “showcase experience” will always be on Windows Phone.