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Existing Windows Phone users will see the Windows Phone 8.1 update start rolling out in the next few months

Microsoft's long talked-about digital assistant "Cortana" became a bit more real today as the feature's abilities were demonstrated onstage at the Build conference.

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore -- head of Windows Phone product and design -- took the stage at Build 2014 today to show off Cortana, which is Microsoft's version of Apple's Siri and Google's Google Now. 

Cortana is based on a character in Microsoft's "Halo" series, and some even speculate that Jen Taylor -- who voices Cortana in the game -- is the voice behind the Windows Phone assistant as well. But Microsoft hasn't confirmed this yet. 

Cortana is being launched in beta for Windows Phone 8.1, and will roll out over the next few months in the U.S. Later, Cortana will make her way to the UK and other countries. 

Belfiore demonstrated Cortana onstage at Build 2014, showing that she can easily answer dynamic questions about sports or the weather.  

He also specifically asked her, "What's the story of the next Halo game?" To which Cortana replied, "I'm quite certain you don't have proper security clearance for that information."


[SOURCE: Twitter]

Cortana also goes beyond just Bing search-backed, factual answers to also setting reminders and making herself present in both Windows Phone native apps and third-party apps. 

For instance, Cortana was able to add a video to a Hulu Plus queue, start a Skype call, and launch a specific friend's Facebook page -- all by voice commands. 

"We think Cortana is the most personal digital assistant," said Belfiore.

The only time Cortana seemed to get it wrong was when she was asked follow-up questions, such as when Belfiore asked her to convert a temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius. That worked out fine, but when he asked, "What about Kelvin?" she went back to Celsius. 

Existing Windows Phone users will see the Windows Phone 8.1 update start rolling out in the next few months. Brand-new phones will see it as soon as late April or early May.

Back in September 2013, Microsoft talked about Cortana being much more than just a personal assistant. It wants to make the assistant technology a key part of the entire "shell" of core services and experience on Windows Phones, Xbox One and Windows OS. 

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called it "a family of devices powered by a service-enabled shell." That's where Cortana comes in. Cortana will have the ability to learn and adapt; and will use Microsoft Bing, Tellme speech technology, natural language software and social graph software to tap into every services and experience area of the device. 

Source: USA Today



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Exciting
By datdamonfoo on 4/2/2014 2:50:38 PM , Rating: 5
I am extremely excited about these upcoming updates. In fact, Cortana is probably the least interesting thing to come out of the updates (for the same reason I think Siri and Google Now are kinda useless after the shine wears off). The action center and the wallpaper tiles are what I'm looking for. Unified apps I hope will be a game changer.




RE: Exciting
By Reclaimer77 on 4/2/14, Rating: -1
RE: Exciting
By datdamonfoo on 4/2/2014 3:09:50 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know, I still don't see people walking down the street, saying Siri, tell me this, or Google Now, tell me that. Sure, you may use it at home once in a while, but I think many people feel silly talking to their automated digital assistant in the places where they are most useful, in the outside world. I guess I'll have to see how it's implemented, and maybe people will feel less "douchey" with time, but for now, I think it's a side attraction that will impress your friends for the first month or so, and then you'll just go back to pressing the touchscreen while in the office or on the bus.


RE: Exciting
By geekman1024 on 4/2/2014 9:30:53 PM , Rating: 2
Is it just my imagination, or does Siri sounds like 'Silly'?


RE: Exciting
By ZmaxDP on 4/3/2014 8:19:24 PM , Rating: 2
If your imagination pronounces the letter "l" as if it were the letter "r" like Team America's Kim Jong Il does...then yeah - it's exactly the same...


RE: Exciting
By aliasfox on 4/3/2014 10:05:08 AM , Rating: 1
Neither Siri nor Google Now is that far ahead of the other. Comparing the two (gf’s Nexus 5, my iPad Air), these are a few takeaways:
- Siri is better with movie showtimes
- Google is better with directions
- Strictly looking up points of interest or restaurants is about the same, maybe a slight edge to Siri
- Google is better with regular search (no surprise there)
- Google is better at allowing you to ‘chain’ requests into a conversation
- Siri has a more human interface
- I like Siri’s calendar integration better

But crucially, neither is really that much faster or easier than actually unlocking the device and doing the task as you would without the verbal command – and manually typing something in gets me 99% certainty I’ll come up with something useful – i.e., I don’t want to try looking up showtimes for Captain Phillips and have the device try to call Phillip. And speaking of names, both devices stumble on non-standard, non-anglo names. I know numerous people from the Nordics, east Asia, and south Asia, and voice recognition invariably stumbles on most of them. And being from New Jersey (and having gone to school in the Midwest), I’m pretty sure my accent is fairly neutral.

Tl;dr: Maybe Google Now is slightly ahead of Siri, but in my experience both are far behind manually search/setup that it doesn’t matter.


RE: Exciting
By atechfan on 4/2/2014 3:37:49 PM , Rating: 2
Cortana is closer to Google Now than to Siri. It has the same integration with apps, contacts, etc to allow it to fully function as a digital assistant. The biggest difference is the privacy settings are more granular than Google's. If you like Google Now, you'd like Cortana.

I'm happy about the info released at Build as I can finally talk about things I knew were coming that had me excited about the future of Windows, both phone and desktop, but didn't want to mention for fear of getting someone in trouble.


RE: Exciting
By atechfan on 4/2/2014 7:08:53 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, there is one area Cortana falls short. As of now, it requires a press of the Search button to activate. It doesn't have an always listening feature like the Moto X, but it is coming at some point. Although the more paranoid might see it as a plus that the phone isn't always listening.


Poor Ballmer
By coburn_c on 4/2/2014 2:35:33 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft also debuted unified apps, a truly unified platform across all devices. Ballmer's vision.. and he wasn't even allowed on stage. Poor guy.

Oh, they also showed off a start menu.




RE: Poor Ballmer
By gixser on 4/2/2014 3:25:54 PM , Rating: 2
And Windows free for phones and tablets with screen size < 9 inches. A lot of positive annoucements today.


RE: Poor Ballmer
By inighthawki on 4/2/2014 4:08:32 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget windowed metro apps :)


RE: Poor Ballmer
By retrospooty on 4/2/2014 11:53:17 PM , Rating: 2
I am more excited about the upcoming combo Windows Start menu/tiles. Based on the screen shots released today, it looks really cool. Somehow it looks slicker than either the old or the current. Like its greater than the sum of its parts... Brilliant!

http://www.theverge.com/2014/4/2/5574830/windows-9...


RE: Poor Ballmer
By inighthawki on 4/3/2014 3:00:25 AM , Rating: 2
I think I'd have to try it. Truthfully the most used portion of the start menu for me in Win7 was the right half to access computer, network, music, etc. Every now and again I'd use the left side for a few common apps like notepad or calculator. It kinda feels like they're giving me the less useful parts of both, but I'll have to try it to know for sure. I might be just as happy to pin a couple links as small tiles on the right side, so maybe it'll work out for the better.

All things considered, Win9 is already shaping up to be a large improvement, but I'm patiently awaiting to see if they make any kind of improvement to the UI's theme. I'm really doubting that anything like aero glass will resurface, but the current Win8 theme is by far one of the ugliest OS themes I've ever laid eyes on, so I guess it's hard to get worse.


RE: Poor Ballmer
By coburn_c on 4/3/2014 9:03:06 AM , Rating: 2
If you watched the Q&A after the keynotes, you'd have seen David Treadwell explaining that they don't want to play the version game and fragment the market. There won't be a Windows 9, there will only be Windows, and it will always be up to date.


RE: Poor Ballmer
By atechfan on 4/3/2014 4:49:09 AM , Rating: 2
This is a result of the sacking of Sinofsky. He was impervious to feedback. He's a very Jobs like persona, thinking his way is the best way. We are seeing tons of compromise between the old and the new now that he is gone.


how it played out
By drewsup on 4/3/14, Rating: 0
RE: how it played out
By Krinosy on 4/3/2014 8:56:16 AM , Rating: 2
The massive irony here is that Siri is also powered by Bing.


RE: how it played out
By aliasfox on 4/3/2014 9:49:56 AM , Rating: 2
I thought Siri was powered by Wolfram Alpha and Apple Maps? Not that either of those are best-in-class solutions either...


RE: how it played out
By drewsup on 4/3/2014 3:25:21 PM , Rating: 2
default only since IOS7, even then, you can select other bases to use.


Windows vs Android
By wordsworm on 4/2/2014 4:19:55 PM , Rating: 3
The thing I liked most about Windows phone is its ability to be controlled and used without looking at the screen. Someone calls me, I answer, don't answer and get the message, or they text message me, and I can do all those things without looking at the phone's screen. On the other hand, apps on Android are much better. For example, Google Earth is the best GPS service at the moment. There are a lot of apps out there that are good, but often not as good as they are on a full PC with Windows on it.

My next phone will probably have Windows.




Well,,,
By T2k on 4/9/2014 3:43:01 PM , Rating: 2
...does anyone give a fcuk about Windows Phone, seriously? And this Belfiore guy, didn't he already lose all his credibility after failing miserably with WP7 and WP7.5 then WP8...?




OK Cortana?
By kamiller422 on 4/2/14, Rating: -1
"If you mod me down, I will become more insightful than you can possibly imagine." -- Slashdot














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