Ever wonder what it’d be like to be Tony Stark, Iron Man with a home automation system that speaks with you when you speak to it? Lucky you, the folks at INSTEON have begun releasing their app for Windows Phone 8.1 for full home automation action - complete with Cortana. This means you’ll be able to interact with your home automation system the same way you’d speak with Windows Phone 8.1’s own friendly voice assistant.
This week the folks at Microsoft responsible for bringing next-generation or otherwise awesome oddities to Cortana have done so. They’ve brought a feature that, even if you don’t watch football in the USA, you can use. You can use it and feel like a pro when you’ve correctly predicted that the Minnesota Vikings will win the Superbowl.
Yesterday we saw some of the new features coming to Windows Phone devices by way of the first update to version 8.1. Now we're being given a more detailed look at some of those features, including some that we haven't heard about yet. Primary among this is that Cortana, Microsoft's own virtual personal assistant, will be making her (or its) maiden voyage outside the US, primarily to China and the UK.
Microsoft may be playing catch-up with Windows Phone, but it clearly believes it has an ace in the hole with Cortana, pitting it against Siri in a new commercial. The ad isn't quite a side-by-side comparison, rather Microsoft's attempt to highlight exactly what a Windows Phone 8.1 device with its virtual assistant can do that an iPhone's counterpart service can't.
This past week we saw a question and answer session with Microsoft which resulted in a slightly misunderstood bit of information being spread. As it turns out, Microsoft is not necessarily planning on releasing Cortana to any platform other than their own: Windows Phone and possibly Windows. Instead, Cortana needs to have a far more solid experience at home before any push beyond their borders, so says Microsoft.
Microsoft is considering extending its Cortana from Windows Phone to other platforms like iOS and Android, as it explores the value of a more ubiquitous digital personal assistant. The voice-controlled interface, revealed as part of the Windows Phone 8.1 developers preview, uses a mixture of specific user requests and contextual data like calendar entries, previous browsing history, and location to make smartphones running Microsoft's OS more personable and useful.
Windows Phone is primed for a serious update, but can it make headway into the mid-range market? With Android holding sway in the “lesser-than” category, Microsoft aims to move into their territory via the Nokia Lumia 630. A decidedly mid-tier phone, it’s got some bite, but enough to stand up to those like the Moto G? We go hands-on to find out.
While Microsoft isn’t quite ready to release Cortana to the desktop world, they’re letting it be known that they’re more than happy to spread the personalization love. With Cortana you get a collection of features aimed directly at you, grown from your recorded interests, contacts, and so forth. With Bing’s new homepage, you’re getting a series of cards with similar information being tapped.
Apple has CarPlay, Google has the Android Open Automotive Alliance, and now Microsoft has Windows in the Car, its own take on piping smartphone content from your Windows Phone directly to the dashboard. Quietly demonstrated at Build 2014 this past week, in concept form at least, Windows in the Car pares back the standard Windows Phone interface to suit center console touchscreens and safer use while on the move thanks to features like Cortana.