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 Neowin.net 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.