Cortana drafts emails, tracks flights, checks weather on Windows 10 tablets and PCs

Microsoft's voice-activated assistant finally makes the jump from the small screen to the big screen.


Microsoft's personal digital assistant, Cortana, has officially made the jump from the smartphone to the Windows PC.

During the Windows 10 launch event in Redmond, Wash., Joe Belfiore, vice president of Microsoft's operating group, demoed Cortana running on a Windows 10 laptop and tablet.

Cortana has taken on some new tricks for these devices, much more akin to some of the tasks found in Google Now, such as tracking your flights and sports scores for you, and anticipating other practical informational needs, like your calendar appointments. Cortana can also check the weather for you, and stores all this information into an at-a-glance panel called the Notebook.

Also taking a cue from Google, Cortana can autofill local desktop searches. You've seen this behavior in browser searches, but it's new to Windows in this form. More impressively, Cortana for Windows 10 can compose an email using your voice prompts, a peek into the other actions that we imagine Windows 10 users will be able to command with their voice. Naysayers wondering how accurate this is may get a boost of confidence knowing that the live demo went off without a hitch.

The assistant can also respond to more abstract verbal requests, like "Hey, Cortana. Find me photos from December." However, there are limits. To maintain a level of privacy, you can set parameters about what Cortana can and can't do, Belfiore suggested. "So I know what you know you've let me know, you know?" Cortana "said" to Belfiore in the on-stage demo.

Cortana's helping 'hands'

Cortana's is a real boon to tablet and PC customers who have envied the voice-activated assistant on Windows Phone. Here, Cortana is a time-saving convenience, and a break for sore typing fingers. More importantly for Microsoft, introducing Cortana to Windows 10 presents a chance to edge rivals like Apple's Siri and Google Now in bringing hands-free help to one of the world's most influential and most-used computing platforms, a community that's 1.5 billion users strong.

Cortana's best trick: Drafting an e-mail you dictate with your voice. Screenshot by Claudia Cruz/CNET

We'll bring you more details about Cortana for Windows 10 from the live demo area at Microsoft's event. Stay tuned!

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