Microsoft's Cortana Lands on Android Phones

On her way to rival platforms, Microsoft's virtual assistant makes a stop at Google's mobile phone operating system.


Cortana, the virtual assistant technology for Windows Phone and Windows 10, is now available as a beta app for Android phones.

"The Cortana app on Android is the companion to your Windows 10 PC, extending Cortana's functionality across any device you carry, everywhere you go," said Susan Hendrich, principal program manager for Microsoft Cortana, in an Aug. 24 announcement. "The Cortana app can do most of the things Cortana does on your PC or on a Windows phone."

As millions of new Windows 10 users now know, Cortana is Microsoft's Siri-like digital assistant. By speaking into a microphone or typing directly into the new Windows search bar beside the Start Menu icon, users can search the Web for information, set reminders and dictate messages, among several other tasks. Available now at the Google Play app store (U.S. only), the app requires a smartphone running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and up.

"The Cortana app can do most of the things Cortana does on your PC or on a Windows phone," said Hendrich. "Since we launched the closed beta, we've also made several improvements to the experience including the ability to set Cortana as the destination for the home button press," meaning users can summon Cortana in a way similar to how iPhone and iPad users call up Siri.

As she settles into her new home, the Cortana experience diverges somewhat, noted Hendrich.

"You will also see a few differences between what Cortana can do today in her 'native' environment (Windows) and in the app on Android," she said. "For example toggling settings, opening apps or invoking Cortana hands-free by saying 'Hey Cortana' are only available on Windows for now. As with all betas, we are continually improving the experience and will incorporate feedback along the way."

Meanwhile, Microsoft is working to drum up developer support for Cortana.

By integrating the technology, Windows developers can add a more human, voice-assisted touch to their apps, driving user engagement, asserts the software giant. "Cortana is a front and center experience in Windows 10 that users can engage with via natural language. With Cortana, users can engage with Windows (both the core OS, but also apps such as yours) the same way they would speak to a person," wrote Microsoft Program Manager Clint Rutkas in an Aug. 25 blog post.

"By extending Cortana, you can engage and delight your users by empowering them to get things done with a quick voice command," he continued.

Containing code samples, the post guides interested developers on the process of incorporating Cortana into their apps. And despite Cortana's U.S. roots—she was named after the AI character in the popular Halo video game series now owned by Microsoft—she's ready to go globetrotting, said Rutkas.

He suggested that developers "should consider localizing your Cortana interactions, especially if you've already localized the rest of your app or are making it available globally. Cortana is currently available in the US, UK, China, France, Italy, Germany and Spain, with more markets coming on board in the future," Rutkas said.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...