Microsoft's "Cortana" is Headed For PC, But What Is She?
What is Cortana? After hearing so much about her at the Windows event, some smartphone users may be left scratching their heads, particularly those who gravitate more toward the iOS and Android side of cellphone-dom. The digital assistant is headed to the PC, so get your fix of Cortana information before Windows 10 hits and get started by using her on your very own phone!
In short, Cortana is a lot like Siri, based off of the character of the same name from Microsoft's Halo video game franchise. Featuring voice actress Jen Taylor, Cortana is available to anyone right now using Windows Phone 8.1. In some cases, you'll receive your results with a computer-generated voice that's, admittedly, a lot less interesting than hearing Taylor's, but it still works quite well.
Cortana is activated by holding the magnifying glass shaped "Search" icon on the main screen even without unlocking the screen. You can also tap the Cortana tile on the home page. However, the screen is still required to be on. Siri can be activated regardless of screen status. The upcoming Project Spartan will be including Cortana within its confines as well, as Microsoft moves away from the Internet Explorer branding.
The performance may be a little different than you're used to, but don't make any mistake when evaluating this spunky little assistant. She's still extremely useful. In personal tests, Cortana was a little more sluggish than Siri, and I had to make multiple attempts at some requests, but when I got them to go through, I was surprised by the information and results delivered to my phone. You can even ask Cortana to set up appointments (a little cumbersome) and ask her about sports scores. Cortana's sports results were a little less "clever" than Siri's back when I tried it out, in that she didn't give any flavor text with her reply. Overall, Cortana is more straightforward, simply giving results without much personality despite her familiar voice.
She's a formidable digital assistant that's more than capable of delivering not only similar results to Siri's, but in many cases more accurate and useful information depending on the circumstances. Cortana is slightly slower than Siri in several areas, but makes up for the extra time with more personalized results. With additional tweaking to Cortana, she could end up surpassing Siri if Apple rests on its laurels, but for the moment it's refreshing to see that there isn't so much of an enormous gap between the two, given the rivalry between Windows Phones and iPhones.