Microsoft's Digital Assistant Cortana Spied on Windows 9

New leaks reveal that one of Windows Phone 8.1's standout features, Cortana, is on the "threshold" of appearing on Microsoft's next desktop operating system.


The Windows 9 leaks keep piling up.

New screenshots of Microsoft's upcoming Windows 9 operating system have surfaced online, lending pixel-based proof to rumors that the company's digital assistant is making the leap from Windows Phone. WinFuture, a German technology Website, published another batch of Windows 9 (Technical Preview Build 9834) images that contain multiple references to Cortana, Microsoft's voice-enabled assistant. Cortana, named after the AI character featured in the company's popular Halo game series, is Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri and Google Now.

The new images seemingly show a sample entry in the preview software's reminder application, appropriately dubbed Remind Me. One reminder makes mention of checking out Cortana. Accompanying the note are reminder options that call to mind Cortana's time-, location- and person-based notifications.

Microsoft first officially unveiled Cortana for Windows Phone 8.1 during the software giant's annual Build developer conference in April. During a live, on-stage demonstration, the technology impressed with its ability to connect multiple data points and sources for genuinely useful alerts, guidance and reminders.

Powered, in part, by Microsoft's Bing search technology, Cortana can suggest that a user leave her office early to avoid being late for an off-site meeting when traffic conditions take a turn for the worse. Users can also set reminders, triggers and other actions when they are in the vicinity of a designated location or when certain contacts call.

Now, those capabilities appear to be headed to Windows 9 (code-named Threshold).

Nestled in the Windows Apps folder (under Program Files) of the technical preview is a Microsoft Cortana folder containing several subfolders and dynamic link library (DLL) files. Telling file names include grammar, personas and Bing configuration.

Numerous image files indicate that Cortana may play a role in Windows 9's built-in search capabilities. One file contains several versions of the magnifying glass icon that is expected to appear alongside the Windows Start icon on the taskbar.

Other Windows Phone features appear to be headed to the PC. A look into the registry reveals the presence of Microsoft's WiFi Sense, which enables users to quickly access, and in some cases share, WiFi networks to help avoid cellular data charges. The appearance of Storage Sense within PC Settings points to a PC-based version of the smartphone storage management and space-saving technology.

Microsoft may soon reveal whether Cortana and other Windows Phone-inspired capabilities will earn a spot on the Windows 9 feature list. The company has begun issuing press invitations to an event in San Francisco scheduled on Sept. 30. The gathered will "hear about what's next for Windows and the enterprise."

Meanwhile, the Mac OS X faithful await to hear word from Apple on whether Siri will ever grace their desktops. Despite a patent application describing an "intelligent digital assistant in a desktop environment," Apple has yet to officially make an announcement.

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...