Microsoft Confirms Windows Phone 8.1 and Cortana PA

Even though a bit late to the game, Microsoft launched it’s own mobile personal assistant to compete against Google Now and Apple’s Siri.

It looks like Microsoft finally decided to have some consistency in numbering its operating systems for desktop and mobile. It might take a few months till the new version of Windows Phone hits the market, but at least it has been officially announced by the Redmond giant, and it will be available before Windows 9 comes to desktops.

Cortana, the main selling point of WP 8.1, will be launched in beta, and since it’s getting released 3 years after Apple’s Siri and two years after Google Now, Microsoft’s mobile personal assistant will have to play catch up for a while. Or maybe Microsoft has just been watching from the shadows all this time, learning the things that made the other personal assistants successful and the aspects that draw them back.

Joe Belfiore, corporate VP of Microsoft’s OS group, called Cortana “first truly personal digital assistant who learns about me and the people that matter to me most.” Unlike Apple and Google’s personal assistants, Cortana can also be contacted via text, so it’s not everything about voice commands.

In the demonstrations made at Microsoft’s Build 2014 developer conference, Belfiore demonstrated how Cortana can easily do the same things a real personal assistant does in terms of managing the calendar and relationships. In one particular demo, Belfiore asked Cortana to set an appointment at a specific time, and Microsoft’s personal assistant reminded him that he has another task scheduled at the same time. Finding schedule conflicts and making people aware of them is certainly something that sets Cortana apart from its counterparts.

Remember the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) that showed up on Windows 98 during an official Microsoft demonstration? Well, Cortana is not without bugs, and a couple of them became apparent during Belfiore’s demonstration. That’s exactly why he reminded people that “We’re launching Cortana as a beta while we train the service on the back end, with lots of voice utterances to improve speech recognition.”

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy, is a bit skeptical about Cortana being able to boost WP sales, as he stated about Microsoft’s mobile personal assistant that it “is impressive but so was Siri and Google Now when it was demoed on stage, so I’m skeptical that it can make a different in Windows Phone sales.”

It remains to be seen if Moorhead is right or not, but even with Cortana, Microsoft will have a hard time trying to dethrone Google and Apple.

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