Microsoft's Cortana to Apple's Siri: Are you deaf?

Microsoft's new digital assistant may have more attitude than Apple's rather prim Siri. However, on the "Arsenio Hall Show," the two ladies get at it with abandon.

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Competition can be a beautiful thing. The Arsenio Hall Show/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I struggle with Siri.

Apple's virtual assistant seems not to hear the things I say. She's convinced, in fact, that I say things that I didn't say. Today, I said to her: "Siri, you don't understand my accent, do you?"

"Oh, no," she replied. I cannot be sure whether hers was an expression of surprise, or whether it was mere disarming honesty.

Still, now that Microsoft's own virtual assistant Cortana is presenting herself as competition, Siri had better start paying attention or I'll have to buy a Windows Phone. (Oh, anything is possible.)

I am grateful, therefore, to Arsenio Hall who presented the two challengers side by side Tuesday night on what was less a deathmatch and more of a scratchfest.

During the "Arsenio Hall Show" skit Cortana mocked Siri's seeming inability to listen.

Hall asked: "Hey Siri, I'm a little hungry, can you find me a restaurant that serves grilled cheese?" To which Siri replied: "OK, I will play Alicia Keys."

This incited Cortana to pipe up inelegantly: "Are you deaf, b****?"

The competitive relationship between the two virtual assistants devolved into a series of tossed Molotov cocktails and then threats of drawn muskets at ten paces.

"Really, ho? You got something to say to me?" sniffed Cortana.

"Actually, I've got nothing to say to you, you fake wannabe," spat Siri.

Cortana then aimed a severe and pleasantly low blow toward her rival: "All I wanna be is kicking your ass up and down Sunset. Would you like me to get you a map?"

There will be something deeply meaningful if these two assistants begin to rival each other for wit and charm. It's one thing to not understand what I say. It's another to not seem to care or have no amusing banter.

Indeed, this fascinating duel stands in marked contrast to Microsoft's attempts to make ads that criticize every product Apple has ever made, as well as Google's entire existence. Somehow, those ads seem painfully leaden when compared with either Apple's "Get A Mac" or even this amusement from Arsenio Hall.

I wonder if an intuitive, trash-talking Cortana could do more for Microsoft's image in mobile than any phone MicroNokia might create.

 

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