Cortana is a favorite here at the Trent house. We still have two kids using Android phones, but my wife, my oldest daughter, and myself, we all use Windows Phone. Cortana has become a staple of our daily lives. To be honest, it takes a bit to begin remembering that Cortana is available to use, but once it starts becoming part of your daily functions, it's hard to give up.
Cortana can get annoying, though, particularly when someone receives as many texts from friends as my wife does. "You have a new text message from <insert name here>, would you like me to read it?" is heard pretty regularly. And, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but Cortana responds better to deeper, more male voices than softer female voices. My wife has to tell Cortana to "ignore it" to text messages a few times before Cortana gets the message. For me, Cortana pays attention right away. Interestingly enough, I've found the same quirk exists with Xbox voice commands.
But, still, the ability to vocalize responses to simple text messages is a hugely valuable feature, particularly when trying to communicate while driving or sitting across the room away from the smartphone. You can always tell when someone on the road with you is texting. Texting while driving turns normally safe drivers into drunken loons.
Cortana is not perfect, by any means. But, is heads-above Siri and is constantly improving thanks to the Microsoft Cloud connection. During my last trip to NYC, Cortana was spot on with my flight arrangements. She alerted me when it was time to leave for the airport, informed me of travel time based on traffic conditions and weather, and even notified me and supplied important information when my flight was delayed.
At Microsoft's latest Windows 10 event, the company finally sanctioned all the many rumors that Cortana is, indeed, coming to the Windows 10 desktop. The next Build for Windows 10, due in the next week, should come with bits and pieces of the new Cortana integration.
Here's how Cortana is shaping up on the desktop:
- Learns individual preferences to provide relevant recommendations
- Integrates with the calendar for fast access to information and important reminders
- Easy and natural interaction via talking or typing
- Advanced features to control Cortana for more trustworthiness and transparency
- Located in the lower left corner, next to where notifications appear
- Can dictate emails and texts
- Search for apps, files, OneDrive, etc.
- Ask Cortana to do things like "play my music"
- New language support
- Integration with Microsoft's new "Spartan" web browser
So, Cortana is all-knowing. With so many privacy breaches in play in the last year, does that scare you even a bit? To ease fears, Microsoft was quick to state that Cortana only knows about what you allow her to know. Cortana is not a big brother mechanism, designed to amass your personal information and then send it along to a central brain where it's hawked for cash, and especially not to serve you advertisements like the evil empire does.
And, because Cortana is built into Windows 10, Windows 10's unified code will be available across all devices, and Cortana knows you, your information, notifications, and settings will travel with you no matter where you decide to work.
Except for the "Spartan" web browser integration and Cortana's location on the desktop, Microsoft is basically making the desktop catchup with the version that already exists for Windows Phone. I'm sure there will be improvements, advances, and new features added along the way, but it's great to see Microsoft making the effort to bring an already fantastic mobile service to the desktop.