Report: Microsoft to bring Cortana digital assistant to Android, iOS

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is going to enhance its Cortana digital assistant for its own Windows 10 platform and then offer it as a standalone app on other platforms including Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS, according to a Reuters report.

Further, Microsoft is going to use research from an internal artificial intelligence project called "Einstein" to enhance Cortana, which will be available on PCs, tablets and phones running Windows 10 when the platform is released this fall. Cortana was introduced on Windows Phone devices last year. 

"This kind of technology, which can read and understand email, will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame," Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research and a part of the Einstein project, told Reuters.

Cortana has been one of Microsoft's key offerings in mobile. However, if and when Microsoft decides to bring it to other, rival platforms, it will represent a continuation of the strategy Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella set to get Microsoft software on as many devices as possible and not just those running Windows. For example, last year Microsoft offered versions of its core Office programs on Andriod and iOS devices. Getting the company's software more broadly distributed could spur enthusiasm in Microsoft's products.

According to Reuters, Microsoft thinks its work on speech recognition, search and machine learning will let it enhance Cortana into the first intelligent "agent" that anticipates users' needs. 

Already, Google Now, a core function of Android, sets reminders for users via cards and notifications that pop up, and can learn a user's patterns via their Google searches. And Apple's Siri digital assistant mostly responds to requests but does issue reminders. Both Apple and Google are working to expand their respective digital assitants into more devices.

"We're defining the competitive landscape... of who can provide the most supportive services that make life easier, keep track of things, that complement human memory in a way that helps us get things done," Horvitz told Reuters.

Currently, Cortana can access a phone's calling, messaging and calendar functions, and can set reminders, make notes, set alarms, see what music is playing nearby, schedule appointments and answer questions about sports scores and restaurants. It can even tell a user how many calories are in certain foods.

Users can also tell Cortana what their interests are, such as their daily routine and commute and what kind of news updates they want to get. Cortana also learns who the user's "inner circle" of family members and friends are. The service can be set up to have "quiet hours" where no one can contact the user--unless that person is in the user's inner circle. 

According to the Reuters report, Microsoft believes the key to Cortana's success will be knowing where a user is, what time it is and what they are trying to do.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this PhoneScoop article
- see this Windows Central article

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