Keen not to be left behind in the digital assistant stakes, Microsoft has its own robot butler up its sleeve. It's called Cortana, and it'll replace Bing as the default search option on Windows Phone 8 devices, sources have told The Verge.
Cortana is named after an AI character in the Halo series of games. It's said to have a personality similar to Siri's, and have some similar functionality to Google Now. But if you're hoping to see the above lady in your phone, you're out of luck -- Cortana will take the form of a circular animated icon that takes the colour of your selected Windows Phone accent. It'll animate when it's speaking or thinking, bounce around, and frown if you ask it a particularly fiendish query. Expressive.
This is all rumour at the moment. I've contacted Microsoft for comment and will update this story if I hear back.
Cortana will tie in data from Bing, Foursquare and others to give the kind of contextual power we've seen with Google Now. So it'll be able to tell you what the traffic is like on the way to work, when the next bus is due, and other relevant info when you're out and about.
A Notebook feature will let you decide how much info you share with Cortana, which should help allay any privacy concerns. You can choose from location data, behaviour, personal info, reminders, and contact info. Cortana won't store any info about you that you don't want it to.
As well as storing home and work locations, and your general interests, Cortana will react to messages and emails that include invitations and times. If someone messages you to suggest meeting at 8pm, say, then Cortana will ask if you'd like to set a reminder in your calendar.
Microsoft has gone all in on voice controls for the Xbox One, letting you do pretty much anything you want with the console just by speaking. The Motorola Moto X's voice capabilities are seriously impressive too, but we'll have to wait and see if Microsoft can match them.
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