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.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Content strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
2 min read

Watch this: Windows 10 will feature Cortana

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.

Live from Microsoft's Windows 10 event (pictures)

See all photos

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!