Cortana getting more capabilities this fall, coming to iOS and Android next?

A Reuters report today says Microsoft is working on a major update to its Cortana personal assistant technology. The report also cites unnamed sources predicting the company will release Cortana as a standalone app for other platforms. But you might have a long wait.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft's intelligent assistant, Cortana, is coming to iOS and Android devices, according to a Reuters report published today.

But don't expect Siri to step aside right away. The Reuters report, based on interviews with Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research, and unnamed sources, is frustratingly vague about the timeframe for the appearance of Cortana in standalone apps on non-Windows platforms.

Horvitz told Reuters that technology from an artificial intelligence project codenamed Einstein, "will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame." The standalone apps for iOS and Android are due "later," according to Reuters.

That timetable shouldn't really be a surprise -- it aligns neatly with the planned commercial availability of Windows 10.

Cortana, which debuted on Windows phones last year, has already appeared in preview releases of Windows 10, taking over the search box in the taskbar.

A video posted last week at a site for Microsoft enthusiasts shows Cortana integrated into the Spartan browser, which is due to debut in the next preview release of Windows 10.

The world's three largest providers of computing platforms -- Apple, Google, and Microsoft -- are all working feverishly to bring this sort of capability to their customers.

Apple's Siri is the oldest of the bunch, capable of answering questions (with search results from Microsoft's Bing) as well as setting appointments, taking notes, and sending emails or texts. Apple has no announced plans to offer Siri on any platforms other than its own mobile devices.

On Android phones, Google Now offers personal assistance without the assistant, offering answers to spoken questions (using Google Search, naturally) and more ambitiously attempting to offer advice and information in the form of Google Now cards, before you even know you need it.

Google Now is also available on iOS (as part of the Google Search app) and in the Chrome browser. Using Google Now requires signing in to a Google account, where the underlying engine has full access to the contents of your Google history, including Gmail and Google Calendar events.

The promised updates to Cortana due this fall try to accomplish the same tasks as Google Now, without the dependence on Google services, a "breakthrough in usefulness."

Microsoft's approach also attempts to sidestep privacy concerns that some have with Google's services.

Bringing Cortana to other platforms is part of a much larger strategy in Satya Nadella's Microsoft, to make Microsoft services platform-agnostic and less dependent on Windows. That's been the impetus for a new wave of business-focused iOS apps and a matching collection of Android apps, including flagship apps like Outlook and Office.

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