Apple moves against Microsoft's Cortana, snaps up Novauris

Apple moves against Microsoft's Cortana, snaps up Novauris

Summary: Microsoft has released details of its voice-activated assistant rival, but Apple isn't taking the increased competition lying down.

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TOPICS: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad
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Microsoft has finally released details concerning its voice-activated assistant Cortana, joining the ranks of Apple's Siri and Google Now. This may have spurred further development and competition in the field, as reports suggest Apple has purchased a company to boost Siri's capabilities.

iphone-4s-siri

Cortana, Microsoft's new personal assistant, is part of the new operating system Windows Phone 8.1. Powered by Bing, Cortana's voice is that of Halo voice actor Jen Taylor, and can be interacted with through speech or typing. The Cortana service will also become part of other Microsoft apps and services, such as Skype, and will be opened up to third-party developers.

See also: Microsoft shows off Cortana beta and Windows Phone 8.1 operating system

Despite strong reviews, Cortana has not left Siri in the dust. According to TechCrunch, the iPad and iPhone maker has acquired Novauris Technologies, a speech recognition firm founded by speech researchers and key members of the team from Dragon Systems R&D, developers of DragonDictate.

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Apple told the publication that "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Novauris was set up in 2002 and began developing automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology based on mobile devices and services, filing a number of patents in the process. The firm owned the core technology, which is valuable for Apple — especially since the tech giant once tried unsuccessfully to purchase Nuance, the technology that powers Siri.

This acquisition and setting the team to work on Siri apparently took place last year, but was not announced. However, the additional skill set will no doubt improve the task assistant's capabilities; it comes pre-installed on the iPad and iPhone product lines.

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad

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30 comments
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  • Siri is dead

    Maybe not dead, but certainly a middle aged women with a boring and annoying voice. Cortana is fresh, new, and sounds great.
    Sean Foley
    • I've heard Siri never gets old

      Zinc oxide creams are just amazing.
      AleMartin
    • Siri has the virtue of being actually here

      But Cortana is a welcome (if late) addition to the club, that will hopefully stir up more competition, which is always a good thing.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • Same old song

      from MS sheep, every time MS copy something from their competitors, fanboys are quick to announce that the competitor product is dead. Just remember the iphone funeral!
      theo_durcan
      • ...just to remind you...

        ...that Windows Mobile had voice assistance long before Apple even knew how to spell "smartphone"...
        TheCat123
        • True

          But you have to admit it was pretty rudimentary. DragonVoice, she weren't.
          Mac_PC_FenceSitter
          • So..

            MS didn't copy anything, they are just enhancing their technology they had for a long time.
            CriticalSection
          • sol....???

            ya Bing was the first... oh wait.
            ya Xbox was the first... oh wait...
            ya MSFT OS was the first ... oh wait...
            ya MSFT had the first GUI OS... oh wait...
            ya MSFT had the first Color aware OS... oh wait...
            ya Zune was the first... oh wait...
            ya OFFice apps were on MSFT OS first... oh wait...
            ya MSFT's 14 different tries at a music services was first... oh wait...
            ya MSFT's touch screen OS was first... oh wait....
            ya MSFT's iPhone clone was first... oh wait...
            ya MSFT's iTunes App store clone was first... oh wait....

            hey but they did have a the first DOS... oh wait...

            how about a nice basic compiler..... oh wait.....

            what ever floats your boat in the morning...
            honkj
          • Re: sol...???

            So, what's your point? What was Apple "the first" with? A GUI OS? That came from Xerox. An MP3 player? Those were around for years before the iPod. A tablet? Sorry, no. iTunes? That used to be a program called SoundJam that Apple bought. GarageBand? Another program that they bought. OS X? A bastardized OS with bits from MacOS, FreeBSD, and NeXT OS. A smartphone? No. How long did it take for Apple to have true multitasking in their OS? Memory protection?

            As for Office apps, yes, Excel was on the Mac before Windows because there was no spreadsheet app for the Mac at that time. However, Microsoft already had a spreadsheet app for DOS then which was called "Multiplan".
            darthmongo
          • Shame that...

            For every item you mentioned Apple actually delivered a product that people bought.

            You can be first but if the product is crap no one will buy it.
            jgpmolloy
          • what is the point? :(

            I don't get it.. it doesn't matter if your first or not :) besides remember who invented Mouse and GUI interface ;) ?

            Here is an interesting fact :)
            The first device to use multi-touch is "Mitsubishi DiamondTouch (2001)" which runs on Windows XP ( or windows 7, and supports linux)

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DiamondTouch
            IcZXtreme
          • If was as good as Siri

            If it was as good as Siri and Google Now, then why the wait. Sorry, but Microsoft is once again late to the party. Cortana may be just grand -- who knows, but she is late in coming. We are still waiting for apps.... and .....
            mytake4this
          • don't get the app argument...so what??

            Honestly this argument about Windows phone has less app therefor its not good.. has to stop... it sounds like an iAd (apple's advertising)

            1) most popular apps on other platform are on Windows phone
            2) How many app do you install on your phone...that you need to have over 1b+ apps in the store??? I always wonder... does anyone have over 100 apps installed on his/her phone?
            IcZXtreme
      • Headlines: Apple settles suit with Intertrust......

        Appears that Apple "copied things", aka patents and got busted. Wonder if that means that paying "finally" for what you stole, which was not your original idea in the first place, males Apple more original in thinking than anyone else????
        Charles_B
    • yeah...ok...

      if only it were THAT simple.
      Tablazines
    • Siri has many voices to choose from

      The British male voice is nice, but I do still like the default Siri
      veggiedude
  • Key Difference

    The architecture behind Cortana is what will make it better than the other offerings.

    Siri is mostly a voice input interface for some automation in iOS and, predominantly, for searching the web.

    Cortana was built with deeper analysis capabilities within your phone. The backend support (likely form the Satori project) gives it a broader understanding at what you ask her. Finally, the extension API will application like Twitter and Facebook to make her even more relevant to you.

    One thing is sure - from now on, both Apple and Google will revise their assistant technology architecture and try to make them more relevant.
    TheCyberKnight
    • Typo - Thanks ZDNet for not offering an "Edit" feature

      ... extension API will [ALLOW] application ...
      TheCyberKnight
    • But

      Even if Microsoft makes a better product such as their iPod clone (for the life of me I can't remember the name...Zune?), will people just ignore it like they did the one whose name I can't remember?
      rfoto
      • but no...

        the zune wasn't better... it was a clone... like Samsung clones are... nobody cares about how many kludge wear apps one shoves on the home screen.. it matters if you can actually take a picture without a convoluted and delayed process, (or play music, or answer a phone call), and then be able to stick the device back in your pocket without it looking like you just gave yourself a wedgy from all the oversized phablet (disquised as a phone) you stuck in that pocket.
        honkj