It’s been nearly three years since Apple unveiled Siri on its iPhone 4s, and Microsoft finally has its answer to the digital assistant: Cortana. Named after a virtual character in the company’s popular Halo gaming franchise, the feature is powered by Bing and offers a mix of Google Now-ish and Siri-like characteristics.

We first got a glimpse of Cortana earlier this year courtesy of a developer leak, but Microsoft officially unveiled her this morning at its Build Developer Conference in San Francisco. The assistant will ship alongside several other new features in the Windows Phone 8.1 update, expected to launch in the next few months…

How does it work? Cortana can be triggered either by an assigned Live Tile on your Windows Phone home screen, or via your device’s built-in search button. From there, it works pretty much like any other digital assistant, capable of setting alarms, searching the web, finding nearby restaurants and other standard affair.

Cortana also has a few unique traits as well, such as contextual reminders that will remind you of something when you’re talking to a designated person, and the ability to add shows to your queue on Hulu Plus. Microsoft has provided an API for third-party apps to interface with—but to what degree, we don’t know yet.

Here’s a video overview of Windows Phone 8.1 (Cortana comes in at 1:50 mark):

Other 8.1 improvements include a new Action Center, similar to iOS 7’s Control and Notification Centers, a refreshed start screen and an updated Windows Phone Store. Skype has also been integrated in new ways this time around, and the WP keyboard has been revamped with support for ‘wordflow’ gesture-based typing.

Microsoft says the update will be rolling out to Windows Phone users in the “next few months” and will start shipping on new devices later this month. On that front, 3 new Nokia Lumia phones were also unveiled today, including the Lumia 930 which features a 1080p display, a 2.2Ghz CPU, 2GB of RAM and a 20MP camera.

nokia lumia 930

Overall, Windows Phone 8.1 seems like a solid update and early reviews of Cortana have been glowing. It would seem that Apple and Google have their work cut out for them. Apple is up first, with its World Wide Developer Conference to likely take place in early June, and Google will follow with its I/O Conference later that month.

  • That looks cool

  • Qasim

    Everyone follows

    • @sexyhamthing

      apple bought siri

      • Qasim

        Anyone would have

    • Vitaliy Anonymous

      Voice control was a technology wayyy before Siri was there.

      • Qasim

        Its not about whether it was there before or not, its how u wrap it up and present to the world

  • Michael Crawbuck

    That presenter looks like he loves jared leto.

    • Michael Crawbuck

      Also, this video is incredibly awkward in my opinion.

  • ✪ aidan harris ✪

    “The world first truly personal digital assistant”

    Microsoft stop pretending Siri doesn’t exist…

    • Um as an iphone user I must admit they are right. Cortana can do a bunch of things that siri cannot.

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        I didn’t say it couldn’t. What I said was it wasn’t the first. Also why does it say things like “Opening Hulu Plus”. Admittedly Siri doesn’t have third party app support but it is still in beta but when you ask Siri to open XYZ app it just does it none of this “Okay I’m about to waste five seconds by telling you I’m opening the app you told me to” it just immediately opens it…

      • lol, yes but patience my friend. All that is going to change in the future. I don’t know if you had seen the movie “HER” that’s how I imagine personal assistants are going to be like.

      • Agru

        Yeah you said it. Siri, after 2.5 years is still in beta. So technically the real first one can’t be something that is still not official right?

      • Barry

        Siri is actually out of Beta since iOS 7 according to Apple.

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        Are you sure about that? I know for marketing purposes Apple dropped the ‘beta’ tag but afaik there’s been no formal announcement that Siri is out of beta and I can’t seem to find any information here (en.m.wikipedia .org/wiki/Siri) on Wikipedia either…

      • N&LH

        “Cortana can do a bunch of things that siri cannot.” like what?
        Can you name them? Windows phone 8.1 is bullshit nothing new

      • Dan

        calm yourself

      • Amr Badr

        Hahahahaa, I just love your replies

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        It has third party app support which is about the only thing going for it IMHO. If Apple added third party app support to Siri and added fingerprint support to iOS apps via an API then iOS as a whole would be perfect…

    • on3simpleclick

      Siri is far from being a digital assistant though…

    • Michael Crabtree

      Also, it says “truly personal digital assistant” not the world’s first.

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        You are mistaken. Listen again from the 1:50 mark…

  • M_thoroughbred

    I like this. It’s a smart idea to use cortana as the digital assistant on the windows phone. Still keeping my iphone but it’s nice to see MS doing what they’re doing.

  • Jonathan

    ’bout time they made that power button easier to access.

  • My God that looks and sounds really good. I can’t imagine how SIRI and Cortana are going to be in the future, like in 5 years or so

    • Liam Mulcahy


  • When go passed the awkwardness of this guy, Cortana is actually pretty cool. Well, actually, the cool thing is how it can interact with apps, which really is all Siri need to be just awesome.

    • ahaha The Miley part had me. Yes, if Apple can add some of those features Siri will be awesome. I like how you can interact with Cortana, with the use of Cortana’s notebook.

  • Owen

    Cortana would have been more impressive if she actually sounded like Cortana.

  • jack

    that guy looks very gay

    • And you sound very much like an imbecile.

      • Ninja Banana

        and you sound like a rusty shanker.

      • Thanks mate

      • Ninja Banana


      • Jeffrey

        why do you ALWAYS have to be a d*ck?

      • how am I being a dick? I’m just standing up for what I believed in which is respect.
        “Gay” term was not necessary.

      • Jeffrey

        by calling him an imbecile, he does look gay, but being gay is nothing wrong, but i guess you do think it’s wrong…

      • Whatever you say brov, Peace and Love.

      • jack

        homosexuals defend their kind.. look at that guy’s blog from his profile.. pathetic

      • Wow, smh.
        May Your god fills your heart with love, not hate and stupidity.

      • So you’re Christianophobic. Don’t be proud of your bigotry

      • Jeffrey

        you’re the one who is filled with hate and stupidity by commenting bad things about other people 4/5 times

      • Jeffrey

        hahahah yeah:P lol

      • Marcus Gomita

        calling him an imbecile is just as bad

    • Liam Mulcahy


    • Vitaliy Anonymous

      He actually has a wife and a kid, IIRC.

  • Stokies993

    Hey look! Is that Windows phone in the distance? Looks like they’re finally catching up!

    • Jonathan

      Still have Mount Everest and the Pacific Ocean to cross though.

  • Marcus Gomita


  • thecrack101

    This is sad!

  • felixtaf

    Watch his first command to Cortana.. He asked something and it typed a different sentence in screen. Lol, poor editing by Microsoft!

    • thecrack101

      you are right. actually, when he just typed it, it was ok. but then Cortana interpreted it as “Remind you when you get to mall. Is this what you want?”

      • felixtaf

        They already released three 15 second ads bashing Siri.. lol!
        Its better than Siri only in third party app integration and few settings integration. Lets see how it performs in real world!

  • August Ebbesen

    Actually really like the new features! Microsoft is learning 😉

  • Sokrates

    Awesome guy who’s presenting. And Windows 8 looks gorgeous! It’s time for OS ELEVEN.

  • Hani Akil

    there is no competitor with apple.. SAMEsung and microsoft maybe

  • n0ahcruz3

    Google now and cortana is better than siri imo. Until apple bring the total hands free siri

  • Jerry

    sounds like old siri. I’ve always liked the new windows phone os.

  • Vighnesh Manick

    I’ll admit, some of Cortana is nice. Either way, that phone looks a lot like an iPhone 5c

    • @dongiuj

      Open your eyes! Looks nothing like a 5C. What, because it has a coloured back and it’s rectangular? Is this what you’re saying? If this is the case then you should say the 5C looks like numerous phones and not the other way round.

  • Yujin

    Who’s is the old Emo on the video? Sounds he never had voice assistant before. Since Siri came out people ask her all sorts of weird questions.

  • Cameron Nelms

    I was going to say they might get sued by Bungie for the name. I forgot they owned them. 😛

  • Amazing features, repelling lazy-fugly-lego-pile UI. Give users the option to have skeuomorphic UIs and it’s a win for all. So far, only Android offers that today…I know what my next phone would be running.

    • Hyr3m

      I want to see Halo’s Cortana in there if I’m ever going to use that interface 😀

  • Nirvana

    This looks promising! So many desirable features!

  • diggitydang

    Cortana aside, I find it super awkward that the dude doesn’t know which camera is on him half the time and it looks like he’s speaking to someone off-camera.

  • locomambo

    Dont get me wrong. Windows phones are legit. I just bought me one again to try the new 8.1

  • Matthew Cooper

    Who cares? I havent used Siri since the iPhone 4s

    • on3simpleclick

      This ^
      I have barely used Siri on my 4S & I’ve had it since launch.

  • Carlos Gomes

    Really? They couldn’t properly sync the speech with the hand gestures?
    Oh you, Microsoft… same old, same old.

  • Jordan

    Wait I just love how company’s come out with their own personal assistant, after apple and are like look how ourS is the first at this and can do more at that. No shit yours has better features, once u see what the competition has, there is noo reason why yours won’t be better or have features that the competitor has. Seriously, I’m tired of people being like ooh this phone is better it can do this and that but urs can’t. Like if you got a newer phone then me and yours isn’t better then you better return it because that company blows and is going noo where. Kinda like apple right now. I’ve been a die hard apple fan and have owned iPhones, iPads, iPods and plenty more of their devices and will continue to stay with them. But I’m tired of the lack of innovation from them recently, and the fact that I can’t have my iphone last more then 6 hrs without plugging it in, is absolutely absurd. Apple fix the damn battery, so I can use all the features u implemented and give us something great in a phone! Instead of a thinner, bigger phone. Stop going thinner FIX THE BATTERY FIRST!!

  • Ishaan Malhotra

    I really liked windows phone until i bought one for my mom. It is faaaaar behind!!!!

  • cd d

    I am 40 years old, all of this new technology is good to me , I don’t care if its from Apple, Microsoft or Google .

  • Tom C

    Your momma is gay

  • Anthony Antunez

    Wow, Siri is looking more like shit by the day. Both this and Google Voice kill Siri when it comes to understanding what you say. But Cortana takes it to the next level by truly understanding natural language. Can’t wait to see what the competition come up with.

  • jp2002

    Above all, their music app is just BS. Creating a simple playlist is a big bane in WP8.

  • obada

    He’s probably tired because of standing up for long time

  • JS3

    ive always wanted to try a windows phone and this might be the time… 8.1 looks pretty good.

  • blastingbigairs

    I don’t use Siri now, and wouldn’t use this hooker if I had a Windows phone. Who cares!!!

  • Alberto Espinal

    I don’t know but I like the looks of this phone

  • mrdude42

    It doesn’t even sound like Cortana from Halo. The voice actually sounds a lot like Siri’s voice.

  • Jerwyn Feria

    haha, its like the Kinect but without a camera. so, i dunno if i want a computerized secretary. unless i see them dark red lipstick and thick but not bifocal glasses.