Cortana integration with Windows 'Threshold' said to be looking more likely

Cortana integration with Windows 'Threshold' said to be looking more likely

Summary: Microsoft's plan to integrate its Cortana digital assistant technology into Windows Threshold is looking more likely, according to a new report.


Rumors have been circulating for a while that Microsoft is planning to incorporate its personal digital assistant, Cortana, into the next major version of Windows.


On August 11, those rumors turned up a notch, with reporting that internal "dogfood" builds of "Threshold," aka Windows 9, include Cortana integration. Windows Threshold is expected to arrive in the spring of 2015. A public preview of Threshold may be available this fall, according to my sources.

As is the case with Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1, Cortana will be an app, not part of the operating system itself, Neowin's Brad Sams said.

Cortana takes its codename from Cortana, an artifically intelligent character in Microsoft's Halo series who can learn and adapt. Cortana relies on machine-learning technology and the "Satori" knowledge repository powering Bing to learn what users want to find, track and do. Cortana is Microsoft's alternative to Google Now and Apple's Siri. Microsoft is in the midst of broadening Cortana availability through a variety of alpha and beta programs worldwide.

Cortana is core to Microsoft's makeover of the entire "shell" -- the core services and experience -- of the future versions of Windows Phone, Windows and the Xbox operating systems. Making Cortana available across all three platforms fits in with Microsoft's 'One Windows' strategy.

Microsoft has been working on making a personal digital assistant available as part of Windows since 2011, if not before. Officials promised scenarios where users would be able to tell their PCs to "print my boarding pass on Southwest" and have their systems automatically jump into action. The magic behind the scenes would be a combination of Microsoft Bing, Tellme speech technology and some natural-language-plus-social-graph concoction. (Microsoft moved its speech team into its Online Services unit, seemingly to facilitate work with the Bing team, at the very end of 2011.)

Some Microsoft execs said that this kind of assistant would be unlikely to appear until somewhere between 2014 and 2016, claiming Microsoft had decided to wait until it had something revolutionary, instead of evolutionary, to debut this kind of new assistant technology.

With the possible inclusion of Cortana on the Threshold feature list, the next release of Windows is shaping up to include quite a few new features and refinements. A new "mini" Start menu, the ability to run windowed Metro-Style apps on the Desktop, the removal of the Charms bar and the inclusion of a virtual desktop capability are all said to be likely for inclusion in Threshold.

Topics: Mobile OS, Microsoft, Mobility, Windows 8, Windows Phone


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • awesome!

    great Idea, endless possibilities.
    can't wait!
    • Supper Paper Clip

      Is this the reincarnation of Clippy? Seriously, the real trick will be how to make a feature like this useful instead of annoying.
      • If Microsoft put the user in control it will be a nice feature

        I talked a lot about choices and customization in Windows 9 on many websites and on this one (though this is my 3rd post here, but I'm a long time reader and follower ;p), I agree with you though, it will be an annoying feature if it will be forced everywhere without user control.
        • Cortana is not Clippy

          My wife got Cortana on her Windows phone. For her is the best thing it ever happen. She ask question to Cortana like it was a real person and she get a response like a real person. Mind you she had an IPhone with Siri, but it's decades of difference to what Cortana can do and Siri cannot understand. Instead of been annoying like you are thinking, it been very useful.
      • People said the same about Siri.

        As some say; "same difference".

        We will see.
      • So far, these things aren't intrusive/annoying.

        So far, these things aren't intrusive/annoying.

        Clippy popped in at unexpected times, often when people least expected it.

        These assistants have (so far) been designed to only activate on command, and only do as they're told.

        We'll see what happens in the future, but so far these things have not been like Clippy at all.
    • how is this a great idea, and you don't have to wait.

      two other companies at least have already rolled out their virtual assistants at least to mobile devices and microsoft as well. As usual MS is a me-too player. If anything virtual assistants are better on mobile devices. I will not talk to my PC at my desk at work.
      • Another close mind

        I know you hate Microsoft, because all your comments are always anti-Microsoft. You don't even know how Cortana works or even try it. The only way you can find out is buying a Windows phone or wait until Windows 9 and since you hate Microsoft so much you are never going to do that. Just keep talking like an idiot without knowing what you are talking about.

        Microsoft might be late to the virtual assistant but it got it much better than Apple or Google. Sometimes it pays to be last.
        • I agree with what you said

          I just would have put iDiot instead of just idiot :P
      • Now that's really funny

        Apple adds features to it's iPhone AFTER android has, and you say "Smart Apple - Sit back, wait and see what's there, and then make your offering better then the others".

        MS does the same thing, and they're a "me too" player?

        Given what you've seen in the past, Would Apple AND Google both be "me-too players" seeing they've been late to the party on other things.

        Or aren't we supposed to mention that? Not sure about that....
      • odd

        Odd because Nuance is a company build around that very premises. You seem to state that since two companies already have virtual assists that no else should so try to innovative in the space.
  • Missed opportunity

    Should have called it 'Bob'
    • Even better

      I always thought it was a missed opportunity to not make their assistant a really badass resurrection of Clippy. Imagine the buzz they'd get if they not only brought back Clippy, but made him awesome.
    • They are relatives

      Cortana is Bobs grand daughter!
    • Actually

      You can call Siri or Google Now Bob if you want, they are closer in functionality than Cortana. Cortana works great on my Windows Phone either speaking to her or typing in. If you type in your request she just shows it on screen without talking to you. If you talk to her she talks back to you. So you control whether she talks or not.
  • Big deal - but it won't be

    This will garner a lot of anti-MS comments. It's a good thing. The computer industry has been pushing for voice controlled computers for 50 years (or more), yet we never seem to get there. It took Apple's clout to really push it with Siri, but even that is considered just a gimmick by many. (I like it and want to use it, but I just can't remember to. Plus, the stupid bluetooth in my car takes over every time my phone does audio so it becomes really frustrating, but I digress.) Even if valuable, Siri and desktop voice control is still too invasive. It's annoying to hear people talk to their devices.

    That said, I'm always looking for the ultimate future technology goals and I know one day we'll be there. I'm glad to see them getting the ball rolling. I'm sure Apple will have the "better" solution the following year or two.
    • Not about speech control

      Yes, speech recognition is an important part, but this isn't about controlling your PC with your voice. In fact, I don't talk to Cortana on my phone, I type into it. Cortana is a digital assistant. That's the purpose here, not control of the PC/device.
    • You have a great point - to add to it ....

      The other aspect that totally frustrates me today with Siri and Google Now, later I am sure Cortana will be a factor, is the information received when you ask for it. It's not that any one feature is better than the other, it is when you can't get the same or correspondingly similar answer from each them. Even worse when one or more of them is wrong.

      Google Now and Siri have their individual strengths and weaknesses, Cortana will also. Most users will be interacting with one or more of these items; I would rather have a cross platform solution. Even if each of them is correct 90% of the time, it's a different 90% meaning I as a user will get way too much incorrect and irrelevant information.
    • Not sure about siri since its always used as more of

      a fun novelty for the kids. I use google voice commands all the time. Its much easier to say "set timer for..", "set reminder to...", "navigate to...", "how long does it take to get to...", "convert tablespoons to ounces....", "send text to..." "play ..." . All of these work great and reliably, usually much easier then entering manually.

      Some potential uses are still gimmicky but voice assistance is currently extremely useful for many things (on mobile. At the desk I'll use the mouse and keyboard, thanks).
      • Re: Not sure about Siri means you haven’t tried it

        If you’re using Siri as a "a fun novelty for the kids,” it’s entirely your fault - not Siri’s.

        "Its much easier to say 'set timer for..', 'set reminder to...', 'navigate to...', 'how long does it take to get to...', 'convert tablespoons to ounces….', "send text to...' 'play ...' . All of these work great and reliably”

        Every example you’ve given works on Siri. Obviously ‘Set timer for ..’, ‘Set reminder to’, ‘play ' work in Siri, but what about some of the others? To be *absolutely certain* of my facts, I tried these examples. (I use Siri all the time, but I know that misquoting a single word would bring some MS-fanboi out of the works.)

        When I asked “How long would it take to drive to Surrey Airport,” Siri didn’t respond with a time alone, but it did open Apple Maps, set the starting location to my current location and the destination to Surrey airport, got the route and the driving time was displayed - as usual - at the top of the map.

        I send emails and SMSes regularly, without even taking my iPhone out of my pocket. For example, here is how I’d send an SMS to my sister. (I’ve changed the names.)
        “Send SMS to my sister on mobile”