How Microsoft's Cortana Assistant Shapes Up Against Apple's Siri

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2014-08-01 Print this article Print

Microsoft has been actively rolling out its Cortana virtual personal assistant to the public. The company has been showing off the voice-activated system, which is designed to compete against the likes of Apple's Siri, in its international markets and in several ad spots that compare its functionality to that of Siri. Naturally, Microsoft contends that Cortana is better than anything customers will find in Apple's iOS-based devices. The trouble for Microsoft, however, is that Cortana has only been in the public eye since this spring and will ultimately make its biggest splash if Windows Phone can achieve greater market and mind share around the world. Still, Cortana is believed to be a key component in Microsoft's broader product lineup and could play an integral role in other operating systems from the company in future years. Therefore, given the importance of Cortana, this slide show takes a look at some of the facts about the company's virtual personal assistant and how it might impact the average Microsoft mobile device customer.

  • How Microsoft's Cortana Assistant Shapes Up Against Apple's Siri

    by Don Reisinger
    1 - How Microsoft's Cortana Assistant Shapes Up Against Apple's Siri
  • Fun Fact: The Name 'Cortana' Comes From Halo

    So where does the name "Cortana" come from? Those who play video games will know that it comes from the "Halo" franchise. Cortana is the virtual assistant of sorts in that game that helps players and the in-game character Master Chief complete the titles.
    2 - Fun Fact: The Name 'Cortana' Comes From Halo
  • It's Already in Action on Windows Phone

    Cortana is available now on Windows Phone 8.1. That's important. Microsoft has been working diligently on the technology and has found ways to make it even better over the last several years. While it launched in the U.S. initially, Microsoft is starting to roll it out internationally.
    3 - It's Already in Action on Windows Phone
  • It's a Similar Experience to Siri

    Those who have used Siri will find the Cortana experience to be somewhat similar. Cortana allows users to interact via voice with the virtual assistant to have questions answered or information shared. Microsoft isn't breaking new ground in terms of how Cortana works, but the company might argue that it's breaking new ground in its functionality.
    4 - It's a Similar Experience to Siri
  • Bring On the Bing

    Unlike Google Now, which is similar to Cortana and relies on user interaction to work, Microsoft's platform isn't relying upon Google search to fetch data. As one might expect, Cortana uses Bing to find information around the Internet and deliver relevant results. Don't expect that to change anytime soon.
    5 - Bring On the Bing
  • Notebook Stores Areas of Interest

    Cortana's Notebook feature is arguably one of its most important. The feature allows users to store information about themselves in Cortana for use later on. Cortana uses that information to keep track of what users like and what they've done in the past to make predictable decisions in the future. It's a neat feature that's sorely lacking in Siri.
    6 - Notebook Stores Areas of Interest
  • There's a Bit More Privacy Control

    Microsoft has added several privacy control features to Cortana so it doesn't intrude upon a person's own security. Cortana is, after all, designed to track what users are doing and provide a predictable response, location-aware information and other useful data in the moment. However, Cortana's functionality can also be trimmed down to the basics if users want to keep their privacy in check. While Microsoft has made clear that it's not collecting or using Cortana-collected information, that the company has added controls over the feature is a nice addition.
    7 - There's a Bit More Privacy Control
  • Cortana Knows What's Going On--to a Degree

    Cortana goes above and beyond understanding what a person really cares about and delivering relevant information. For example, if Cortana is given information on favorite places and a user tells it where he or she is going, the assistant after analyzing traffic can provide information on when the user should leave to get there on time. She also examines the user's calendar to provide insight into travel information before he or she even leaves. Over time, Microsoft argues, Cortana is capable of learning more and more about the user and delivering further relevant information. In other words, she knows what's going in your life.
    8 - Cortana Knows What's Going On--to a Degree
  • There's Full Integration With Other Services

    Microsoft has rightly decided against keeping all of Cortana's features centered on its own slate of services. Instead, third-party services are fully supported, including sites like Wikipedia and social services like Foursquare. Microsoft isn't totally controlling Cortana, which is nice to see.
    9 - There's Full Integration With Other Services
  • Updates Are Coming Fast and Furious

    Although Microsoft made some headlines recently with an update to Cortana that added full in-car control and better natural-language recognition, like Siri, Microsoft claims to be updating Cortana quite often with small tweaks to make it better. The big question now, though, is whether Apple will respond with its own slate of new features in Siri to match what Cortana has done.
    10 - Updates Are Coming Fast and Furious
  • Yes, There Are Siri-like Easter Eggs

    When Siri first launched, users would ask it all kinds of questions and get wacky answers. Like Siri, Microsoft has built in several interesting "Easter Eggs" into Cortana that makes interacting with it all the more entertaining. In fact, Cortana seems to have a bit of a personality, providing more conversational talk than Siri with users and even singing. Try out Cortana to see just how far the Easter Eggs go.
    11 - Yes, There Are Siri-like Easter Eggs

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