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Microsoft Cortana challenges Siri in new video spot

It's a Microsoft spot. Guess which voice assistant emerges victorious.

Battle of the voice assistants: Apple's Siri vs Microsoft's Cortana. YouTube/screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Microsoft's Cortana voice assistant is much more helpful than Apple's Siri, at least as portrayed in a new video spot from Microsoft.

Pitting Cortana on a Lumia 635 against Siri on an iPhone 5S, the video spot finds Microsoft's assistant much more cooperative at a couple of specific tasks. First, the user says to Cortana: "When my wife calls, remind me to tell her 'Happy Anniversary.'" Of course, Cortana is only to happy to comply. Siri's response? "Oh, no. I cannot do that."

Then the user asks Cortana to remind him to get roses when he's near any flower shop. "Sure thing," says Cortana. But Siri says, "I can't do that either." Finally, Cortana ends by automatically giving the user a traffic alert, prompting Siri to exclaim: "Now that is a smart phone."

Voice assistants have become key features on mobile devices, notably Siri for iOS, Google Now for Android, and Cortana for Windows Phone 8.1. But try though they might, these assistants often have trouble accurately answering your questions and truly fulfilling your wishes. As Microsoft tries to push Windows Phone 8.1 and its Lumia devices, one tact is certainly to tout Cortana as a more helpful and receptive voice assistant. But is that accurate?

Microsoft has promised that Cortana would be more capable than Siri at taking care of certain tasks, especially those within a certain context. For example, you could ask Cortana for reminders centered around certain people, a task that can sometimes challenge Siri. Cortana is also supposed to be able to understand more natural-language queries than can its iOS rival.

In a competition this past April pitting Cortana, Siri, and Google Now, CNET found that Cortana is off to a strong start.

"Cortana may not be the game-changer that Microsoft hopes it to be -- at least not at this stage -- but the voice assistant more than holds it own against it chief rivals Siri and Google Now," CNET's Jessica Dolcourt noted in her review.

But the final verdict will rest in the hands of Windows Phone 8.1 users as Microsoft's new mobile OS starts to make its way to existing Lumia phones.