Cortana blows away Siri and Google Now, may bring me back to Windows Phone

Cortana blows away Siri and Google Now, may bring me back to Windows Phone

Summary: I didn't think too much of the earlier Cortana leaks, but after seeing it perform in person and diving into all that it can do I think this smart personal assistant may even bring people to Windows Phone from iOS and Android.

Cortana blows away Siri and Google Now; may bring me back to Windows Phone

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley wrote about the Windows Phone 8.1 update that includes Cortana and my interest was piqued.

Last night I was given the opportunity to attend the Nokia More Lumia event and tested out the Nokia Lumia 630, 635, and 930 as well as the updated features in WP 8.1. The Cortana service may be the feature of WP 8.1 that brings me back to the platform and one that has the potential to bring customers from iOS and Android.

We saw plenty of leaks of Cortana before the announcement and I honestly just thought it was a Google Now and Siri voice command and search competitor. After sitting down through a detailed demo and QA session and trying it out on new Lumias, I was extremely impressed with its functionality. Cortana truly is the personal assistant that I have wanted for a few years and that make our smartphones finally as smart as they should be.

Cortana is launched with a single press of the right search icon (magnifying glass). I thought it would launch immediately into the voice command mode like a press and hold on the Start button now does on Windows Phone. A press and hold of the search button will launch Cortana into listening mode, but you can also use Cortana without enabling the voice control part. You see Cortana takes the Google Now awareness part of your life to the next level and provides a useful experience without even using the voice control functions.


You can define your interests, set reminders, establish quiet hours and rules, define your inner circle, identify your favorite places, and much more to start Cortana off. The service then learns your lifestyle over time while also gathering data as you use Bing search on your desktop computer, assuming you are signed into your account. The ability of Cortana to "know you" is very impressive and I can't wait to test it out over time and see how good it gets.

Cortana can also be used as your personal assistant without you ever having to speak commands. You can enter searches and other commands via the keyboard, which is great for commuters and those working in quiet office environments where the idiot constantly speaking to their phone is a major distraction. Microsoft has obviously put a lot of effort into Cortana and it shows, even in its current limited beta state.

I use Siri to set up reminders and perform a few basic searches. Google Now is much better for me because I use Chrome and Google, but it still isn't doing enough for me personally and has limited usefulness. Cortana looks to take the digital assistant way beyond what either Siri or Google Now do and could honestly be the service that helps Windows Phone attract more buyers.

Further reading

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Nokia, Windows Phone

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  • Bhahahaha...

    Google Now and Siri bites the dust...
    • so tell me Owl

      how will MS be able to match google now without parsing my email that they've gone to great lengths to bash google over,
      or "invading my privacy" in general?
      • The only difference I see

        is how fine-tuned it can be, and that Microsoft won't be reading your email (the ones on the device) unless you give them permission to.
        Michael Alan Goff
        • I did not expect to say that

          • Owls

            Bet you like Owls too ;)

            Yes, Microsoft has some potential. Let's see how they do cleaning up their goofs along the way. Win 8.1 is a start. This is a 3 step plan to recovery :o

        As you may or may not have heard when you listened to the Keynote yesterday (I have a feeling you didn't listen but still make sill comments) is that you have the choice to allow that or not. You can deny Cortana access or you can allow it. Of course not allowing that sort of access would turn Cortana in what is already included on WP 8 with TellMe.
      • Drwong

        Google is the evil empire
        • No

          Microsoft still holds that title. BTW, here' an interesting fact: Any .msn/homtail/to the cloud,Skype, etc transactions are 100% inspected (read) by Microsoft. Not only that, they keep a "unencrypted copy, for "Law Enforcement".
          I hate trolls also
          • Unencrypted?

            AN unencrypted please...
            dumb blonde
      • Apples and oranges DrWrong

        Google automatically parses the data of every one of their users (not just email) in order to squeeze as much monetization out of their users as possible. Their goal is to throw as much targeted advertising at users as possible. Googles business model depends completely depends on that.

        A Cortana user can OPT-IN to allow their email to be scanned, which as far as anyone knows is only used to give better search results to the user (not targeted ads). Alternatively, a user can directly input and tell Cortana what they are interested in and Cortana can make suggestions based on that. Also unlike Google, a user can directly tell Cortana what they are not interested in.

        The differences may seem slight, but they are pretty drastic.
        • and further...

          Cortana scans email on the phone, and does it on the phone. It doesn't send your data to the server. You get to pick what personal items go to Microsoft servers as part of what you tell Cortana to learn and remember. At least that's how I interpreted the comments during the keynote demo.
          • jreuter, you been living under a Rock? Anything on a WP device

            Is sent to a Microsoft server, including GPS coordinates, WiFi hotspots, a Unique ID etc. But you honestly believe Microsoft will not go through your email?
            I hate trolls also
          • But unlike Google and others they don't sell it for tons of cash

            EVERYTHING done on an Android phone is sent to a Google server, including GPS coordinates, WiFi hotspots, a Unique ID etc. But you honestly believe Google will not go through your email?

            They do, and sell that info for billions - contact lists, searches, comtent, photo, ect.

            They've pretty much stated that anything on an Android phone becomes property of Google, and they will allow you access to it at their discretion.
        • Microsoft does the same thing, Dingbat

          They just lie about doing it. Kind of like "If you like your current healthcare plan, you can keep it". Both things turned out to be lies, the person(s) saying them knew to be false.
          I hate trolls also
          • It's unfortunate...

            ...that people now group insurance company maneuvers and manipulations that have been around for decades under ownership of the ACA.

            It's just commons sense that Insurance companies have been kept "in the loop" with the ACA and still are able to manipulate things on their own and blame the ACA for everything.... and stupid people believe it. Insurance companies don't want the ACA to succeed.

            I wen to the 2013 Fortune 500 list and got the top twenty Insurance and Pharma companies. I totaled their revenue and it's almost a trillion dollars. ($980 Billion).

            It's just wrong to think the 50 attempts to kill the ACA had anything to do with actual healthcare. It has everything to do with money and preserving the limitless profit of a trillion dollar legalized ponzi scheme, that is still functioning and causing havoc.

            No back to your computer comments...
          • Joey,

            No, bzzzzzt, wrong. The ACA was presented by the President of the United States exactly as the OP stated. He had to backpedal and did so in public to the amazement of all of use. It was not your Trillion dollar companies (when you total 20 very large companies, which to have those revenues is a huge win for the government and the economy and jobs, your statements are pure speculation) that caused this mess.
            The WH admitted to have not telling us about the certain conditions where the statement "you can keep your insurance if you like it" didn't apply. While you are doing your own research and coming up with your own conclusions, it still does not hurt to watch the news, even MSNBC, who is in your corner (funny you don't like MS) all the way showed the clips of the WH backpedaling on this very issue and admitting the original statement now has "exceptions".
            Huh, funny how things go sometimes.
            Socialism does not work and if you feel it does, please point to a country that is making it happen in a way that is benefiting the majority and people are not having their freedoms squashed.
          • oh, they lie huh?

            well you should have basis for an excellent class action lawsuit. Heaven knows google has lost enough suits in this area to know that companies who lie about these things get caught.

            so, please just expose where Microsoft lied and educate everyone.

            help the poor dingbats to understand how Microsoft is lying or else people might just thing you are grasping at straws.
      • drWong - easy answer.....

        by letting you decide if you want that w/o just stealing data around the world.
        It won't be long before the AT dept is all over Goog.
      • It's your choice

        Cortana ask for the permission to look into your e-mail on your phone. If you don't want her to look then she will not look.
      • Do I have to explain the definitions to you?

        There's a huge difference between invasion and permission.