Microsoft is working on a 'Cortana' personal assistant to rival Apple's Siri and Google Now, reports ZDNet.
Signs of Cortana were first spotted on a Lumia allegedly purchased on eBay. The phone was running a beta of the Windows Phone OS and had an unrecognized app installed called 'zCortanaApp'. The 'z' indicates a test build.
The name 'Cortana' comes from an artificially intelligent character in the Halo series of video games. Like in the game, Microsoft's assistant will be able to learn and adapt using machine-learning technology such as the 'Satori' knowledge repository that powers Bing, says ZDNet.
Cortana will be more than just an app that lets users interact with their phones more naturally using voice commands. Cortana is core to the makeover of the entire "shell" -- the core services and experience -- of the future versions of Windows Phone, Windows and the Xbox One operating systems, from what I've heard from my contacts.
In Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's strategy memo from July he hinted at "a family of devices powered by a service-enabled shell."
"Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it."
The shell will "broker information among our services to bring them together on our devices in ways that will enable richer and deeper app experiences," Ballmer said.
The 'Cortana' assistant likely won't appear until 2014-2016, according to Microsoft execs. Bing officials reportedly told CNET that Microsoft decided to wait until it had something revolutionary, rather than evolutionary.
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