Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) may unveil “Cortana,” its version of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Siri, as early as April, reports MSFTNerd. According to the rumor, Microsoft’s voice-activated personal assistant will debut in beta form for developers on Lumia devices as part of the Windows Phone mobile operating platform and will later be expanded to Apple’s iPhone via the Bing app.
MSFTNerd reports that Microsoft also plans to eventually expand Cortana’s availability to the Xbox One and the upcoming “Threshold” Windows release in 2015. Cortana will initially only be available to U.S.-based users, but other English-speaking territories will be added throughout 2015 and 2016.
The name Cortana was derived from an artificial intelligence character in Microsoft’s highly successful Halo videogame series. According to MSFTNerd, the personal digital assistant will be voiced by Jen Taylor, the same actress who voiced the videogame character.
Similar to the voice-activated personal assistants developed by Apple and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Cortana will be capable of understanding users’ natural language queries. According to MSFTNerd, users will activate Cortana by prefacing their questions with the phrase, “Bing Tell Me…”
Although MSFTNerd’s report did not refer to Microsoft’s upcoming Build developer conference in April, it is likely that the Windows Phone version of Cortana will be unveiled at that event. The first hints about Cortana’s existence emerged in a Microsoft memo penned by former CEO Steve Ballmer last year.
In the memo, Ballmer discussed a “service-enabled shell” that “will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world.” Cortana will likely be powered by Bing’s Satori knowledge base, similar to the way that Siri is powered by Wolfram Alpha. According to MSFTNerd, certain speech recognition improvements that were developed for Cortana have already shown up in the Bing Translator app for Windows.
Siri – which was originally released by Apple in 2011 – was considered a major selling point for Apple’s iPhone 4S. However, since Siri’s debut, various other personal digital assistants have been developed and released on other platforms. For example, Google Now was released by Google in the year following Siri’s release.
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