Could and should Microsoft bring Cortana to iOS, Android?

Could and should Microsoft bring Cortana to iOS, Android?

Summary: Microsoft officials admit they're contemplating whether to bring Microsoft's Cortana personal digital assistant technology to non-Windows platforms. Are the tradeoffs worth it?


Microsoft management is considering the wisdom and feasibility of making the company's Cortana personal digital-assistant technology available on iOS and Android.


During a keynote at the SMX Advanced search-marketing conference in Seattle this weekOfficials acknowledged that the company is weighing the potential tradeoffs between pervasiveness and prioritizing. Both GeekWire and Search Engine Land reported on the Microsoft keynote where officials discussed Cortana's possible future.

GeekWire quoted Marcus Ash, a Windows Phone Group Program Manager as saying "it's a bit of a head scratcher for us right now" as to whether Cortana has a future on iOS and Android.

Ash and Rob Chambers, a Group Program Manager in Microsoft's Applications and Servies Group, also noted during the June 12 keynote appearance that Microsoft wouldn't be able to integrate Cortana as seamlessly into non-Windows-based devices as it can with Windows Phone. That said, Microsoft's cross-platform push has been increasing as of late, Chambers said.

Neither exec offered any timeline as to when Microsoft might be interested in getting Cortana on iOS or Android. But they did admit there's also the hurdle as to whether and when  iOS users would be willing to use Cortana rather than Siri or Google Now, the digital assistants baked into the iOS and Android platforms, respectively.

Microsoft does currently offer Bing apps for iOS and Android today. And Apple is increasingly open to using Bing to serve up search results. And recent Microsoft moves, such as making a touch-optimized version of Office available for the iPad — and most likely, on Android — ahead of the touch-first Office suite for Windows 8 show that the new Microsoft is willing to put its software and services where users are.

But where does management draw the line? Is Cortana, which is currently still in preview for Windows Phone 8.1 only, a crown jewel that Microsoft should guard as a Microsoft-platform differentiator? (Microsoft is rumored to be planning to make Cortana available on a future version of Windows, possibly next year's Threshold release, as well as on Xbox at some point.) Or would Cortana have more value, as well as more user-input fodder, if it's not just a Windows-only thing?

Until the past year or so, I'd have bet Microsoft management wouldn't even remotely consider bringing Cortana to non-Windows platforms. These days, all bets are off. I wouldn't be surprised to see Cortana show up as an option for iOS and Android platforms, maybe starting with Microsoft's Android-based Nokia X phones.

Topics: Mobility, Android, iOS, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Windows, 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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  • Android? Could make sense

    as Android permits more system modification that would allow Cortana the hooks it needs to be a useful assistant. That would provide a big boost to Microsoft's semantic search and knowledge infrastructure, and give Google Now a real rival.

    iOS? Doesn't make too much sense... Microsoft can't get the hooks into the system it needs to operate effectively, and a limited assistant isn't much fun (download JARVIS, and you'd see what I mean.) Plus Siri already runs off of the Bing backbone....
    • But siri and mac already have bing biult in

      But IOS and mac already have bing biult in
    • MS needs a new CEO

      I wish they would get rid of Nadella. He is too much of a radical. When you have a CEO who is loved more by users on rival platforms, instead of his own, you know you have a problem. It is as if the MS board brought Nadella in to dismantle the MS ecosystem and build something different. Why on earth did they do that? Wasn't it working well before? If users on other platforms like Nadella so much, why doesn't he go work for them? Replace Nadella with someone who believes in MS platforms, and is not hell bent in gutting them of their value.

      If you look on the following link, since about 2 weeks after the release of Office for the iPad, MS Surface devices have been sliding more and more down the following list. They are no longer on page 1 as they have been for months, and are simply sliding further and further down.

      Why did MS get someone people outside of the MS ecosystem loves, instead of someone people inside the MS ecosystem would love? Is this all about investors? Just get someone who cares about MS the way it is, and who can manage the media and investors at the same time.
      P. Douglas
      • Depends what you consider the platform to be

        I think a bit of perspective is needed - people may jump up and down about Surface this or Surface that today, as if Microsoft is somehow betraying the memory of Abraham Lincoln in those cases where it doesn't put the Surface first.

        But let's face some facts - none of us had even heard of any "Surface" three years ago (except a table top touch screen that had had that name.) Microsoft Office has been around for 30 years, on the other hand, has been multi-platform the entire full length of its history.

        The Microsoft you're looking at today? That's the Microsoft that Microsoft has been for most of its history. Its a software and services company that recently did a foray into the devices business in a bigger way... No one should find themselves surprised to see Microsoft making some of those devices stand on their own two feet, rather than artificially relying on an exclusivity that Microsoft Office has never in its history offered.
        • This every man for himself thing does not fly

          My point is that the downturn in Surface sales on the Best Buy online store, is probably indicative of a general setback of Windows tablet sales, as a result of the release of Office for the iPad.

          Office was only on one other platform, the Mac, which had a miniscule market share, so as to have negligible effect on Windows. If MS was to place Office on Linux desktops as well, that too would not have a material impact on Windows sales. However, placing Office on iOS and Android, the two largest mobile OS platforms, can only result in blow back on Windows sales, both in the consumer and business markets.

          As for this idiotic notion that Windows must stand on its own, I'm glad that neither you nor Nadella runs the military, or the organization's creed would not be "leave no one behind" or "you always have your buddy's back", but would be, "it's every man for himself". Neither you nor Nadella seems to know how to run an organization with multiple entities, or even a team for that matter. If you are in a team, you work as a team, and you do things for the team - not the other teams. Nadella is so enarmored with everyone outside his team, he would rather help them, than his own.
          P. Douglas
          • Not sure what any of this team stuff is about

            But Microsoft is a business. They have made programs available on various platforms not out of any philosophical disposition, but rather something much simpler:

            To make money. The end.
          • No organization can survive with unchecked conflicting interests

            Microsoft is a group of organizations. No group can function for long in a divided manner - hence the saying, "A house divided cannot stand." What this means, is if the various parts of MS do not look out for each other, but instead, pursue their own agendas, MS just like any other group, will come crashing down. The net effect will be catastrophe, not growth.

            It is impossible for MS to make available its services, which for decades have differentiated its platforms, on other platforms, without delivering a devastating blow to its platforms. Also its platforms make a lot more money than its services. Windows make far more money than OneDrive, the subscription version of Office, Bing, etc.. It makes no sense to trade the great wealth generated by Windows, for the relative pittance MS gets from services.

            The fact of the matter is, Nadella's cloud first plan is fundamentally flawed. MS needs a CEO that will continue MS' platforms first agenda, as it has for decades. The CEO simply needs to continue the modernization of Windows Ballmer was doing, along with augmenting it with services, in a manner where both reinforce each other - vs. work against each other, which can only lead to the implosion of MS.
            P. Douglas
          • There is a strategy here...

            The whole point here is to make money - there are people out there who just won't switch to another platform, so Microsoft would be crazy not to cater to those individuals. However, by opening up some of its services to other platforms, Microsoft may then be able to entice those onto its own ecosystem for a more connected experience (and to make even more money). Just think, if Apple hadn't released iTunes for Windows, the iPod, iPhone and iPad would never have happened!

            This really isn't a case where the Search Team isn't working with the Windows Team, they all know what the company as a whole has planned 6, 18, 24 months from now. I think further down the line we'll see a lot more harmonisation from platform to platform and the lines between these will become more of a blur than they are today.
        • Microsoft has always been a platform First company.

          If it was allways about making money with their software they would have released a Office mobile for Blackberry decades ago. Or Palm OS back in the PDA days. Instead Microsoft held Office exclusively for their own Pocket PC and Windows mobile platform. Let's not act as though Microsoft were always this software first company releasing their crown jewel wherever they felt they could make money. They've held onto Office to themselves for all these years becaus the platform (windows) was the driving force.

          Microsoft today needs to decide which direction they really want to go. You can't be a software and service company while at the same time compete against your own OEMs on the hardware/device/platform front. You will eventually run into a conflict of interests. We've seen it happen with their Zune effort and now we are seeing the same with Surface. OEM partners who signed up to license PlaysForSure back then and Windows for mobile today feels Microsoft shouldn't be competing with them. Probably the reason we have so many OEMs releasing Chromecast today, Microsoft decided they needed to compete in the notebook/tablet PC market.
          • No! Not even close!

            I've got no sympathy for the OEMs. They all suck and 95% of the stuff they put out is generic, poorly imagined crap. Then they load up all of those devices with bloatware and crapware, which ruins the out of the box performance, to make up for their low profit margins which they themselves are to blame for.

            If they didn't suck, Microsoft wouldn't need to make the Surface. If they weren't flooding the market with Android devices and Chromebooks, I'm sure Microsoft wouldn't make the Surface. The Surface is better than any product these worthless OEMs have ever put out. So screw the OEMs.
      • It is about relevance

        Ballmers went all in on re-imagining Windows as a mobile, touch centric system that would make MS relevant in phones and tablets. That hasn't happened. Nadella is doing the smart thing. He is pushing the services side of the devices and services strategy while MS regroups on the devices side.
      • That link doesn't say what you think it does.

        I agree that they need to keep Cortana on Microsoft platforms, but Microsoft needed to put Office on other platforms. There is too much money there. I also have no problem with things like Bing, One Drive, Smart Glass, and Xbox Live being on other platforms.
  • Sure. Why not?

    Seriously, no one is going to use it at all for the Android platform because Google Now already does so much more. Add to the fact that Google Now is going hands free, why use Cortana when it basically harder to use, say...when one is driving. All in all, it's a good move for Microsoft to make Cortana available to (at least) Android. If Microsoft is serious about this, the biggest losers will be the 3% Windows Phone users as Microsoft will have to develop for the Android platform first, to keep up with the competition and the 80% majority who use Android.

    The sad fact for Cortana is that it will never be a serious player in the Personal Assistance "space" for 3 reasons: 1. It's tucked away in the 3% marketshare of phones; 2) Even if it makes improvements to exceed features over Google Now and Siri, it will just be a matter of time when Google and Apple will copy it; and 3) Unless Microsoft develops a "killer" feature that will blow people's minds away, no one other than the 3% WP users will want to use it enough to make the switch.
    • you forget

      That she is available on Windows and Xbox she will be the only VI available across PC, Tablets, Smartphone and console - so her abilities will far exceed the others.

      Not to mention if they integrate them - so you could tell her from one device to do stuff on the others - set reminders, download stuff, etc.
      • Wrong

        Google Now is already available on any computer (Windows, OS X, iOS, WP) that has a microphone if you use Google Chrome browser. And it's already available across platforms. When I do a Google Now request on my desktop computer in Chrome, that is also available on my work laptop, my Droid Phone and my Asus tablet. When I do a Google Search on my desktop I can easily pull up that search history on my phone, tablet and laptop.

        So if you're "not to mention if they integrate them".... Google's already done that.
        • and...

          Bing already does that for me across Windows and Windows Phone - without cortana - showing how the integration of her and her additional capabilities will far exceed Googles stuff... Given the systems already do the same without a VI...

          They also share my favourites, personalisation settings, can open a browser window from one device of a browser window that is on another - the list goes on... And again all before an 'assistant'.
      • They should get Cortana on WP first...

        WP8.1 hasn't even been released to the public yet, Cortana was only made available to testers in the UK this week and reports are that Europe won't be getting Cortana on WP8.1 until Q2 next year!

        I would say they need to concentrate on getting Cortana to market on ONE platform, before they start talking about putting it on every other platform!
    • Wrong!

      Cortana actually does much more than Google Now, but don't let facts get in the way of your fanboy banter.
      • OK,

        Examples, please. Tell me something I can't do with Google Now that I can do with Cortana.
        • How Cortana improves upon Googlw now and Siri