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This is the first purported image of Cortana, Microsoft's version of Siri. The digital butler is expected to make its debut in Windows 8.1, and The Verge has snaffled these leaked snaps of it in action.

As you can see, Cortana takes the form of a circular animated icon rather than a person, even though it's named after a female AI character in the Halo series of games. I've asked Microsoft if it has any comment, and will update this story if I hear back.

Cortana will reportedly replace Bing as the go-to search option in Windows 8.1. Ask it a question, and while it's fetching the answer it'll animate to let you know it's hard at work scouring the Internet.

A previous report said Cortana would have a similar personality to Siri, and judging from these pictures, that looks to be the case. Click the second one, and you can see a message from Cortana that reads: "I'm absorbing the entire Internet. Won't take long…" That's the kind of wry aside I'd expect from Siri, so it looks like Microsoft has taken a leaf out of Apple's book.

Also just like Siri, you can tell Cortana how you'd like to be addressed. If you don't fancy your name, how about a nickname like Master Chief? Or maybe Big Guy? Just enable it in the settings, and it'll make it so.

Cortana's Notebook function lets it access information like your location, behaviours, personal info, and reminders. It'll use these to serve up contextual info, just like Google Now. Go to another country, say, and it'll recommend places to go and things to do. Very handy.

The likes of Bing and Foursquare will provide data for this contextual info. Microsoft is expected to unveil Cortana at its Build conference, which starts on 2 April, so we should know more then.

Excited? How can it take on Siri and Google Now? Let me know in the comments, or on Facebook.

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