Cortana is one of Windows Phone 8.1's most interesting features. Cortana, for those that did not know, is the new digital assistant that takes on Apple's Siri and Google Now. Developers who are running Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview were given an early taste of Cortana's power, however it was limited to the United States. That will soon change.
Cortana is currently in Beta and available for developers only, although anyone can install the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview. As of right now, Cortana is available in the US. In the coming months, Cortana will be rolled out to Windows Phone 8.1 users in China and UK, followed by other countries.
In an interview with Marcus Ash, Microsoft’s Partner Group manager for Cortana, we have learned that Cortana is a central figure in Microsoft's idea of human-centric computing. "Human-centric computing is something we’ve focused on at Microsoft, and Cortana is an important part of that. We’re developing technologies that can make a real difference in people’s lives," he states.
When Cortana was first rolled out, there wasn't much data for her to play with. However, Cortana became smarter as time went on and as she gathered vital data from users.
Cortana is just one element of a customized tech ecosystem, which just so happens to revolve around the consumer. Ash mentions that human-centric computing, such as wearable devices, personal computers, and even automobiles know a lot about you. Therefore, they must help you stay in touch with the people you care about.
"We didn’t want just to create a voice-command system. A true virtual assistant has to do things proactively. It has to have a sense of what I want to do. That’s a big differentiator," Ash explains.
To develop Cortana, Microsoft spoke to a number of "real personal assistants" and learned that they kept track of the interests and preferences of their bosses in a notebook. So Microsoft thought, what if Cortana curates all the stuff in Cortana's Notebook, which allows Cortana to be proactive and helpful throughout the day. Jen Taylor, the same lady who voiced Cortana in the popular Halo franchise, is also the voice of Cortana.
Cortana is part of the Windows Phone 8.1 update, which will arrive on every Nokia Lumia device running Windows Phone 8.