Microsoft Cortana (UI)

Microsoft has wont to arrive late to parties: following Siri’s introduction nearly three years ago, Redmond in April of this year has finally gotten around to unveiling a personal assistant of its own, Cortana, at the Build Developer Conference in San Francisco.

Originally conceived as a Windows Phone 8.1 exclusive, the Windows giant is now reportedly considering bringing the virtual assistant to rival platforms, namely to iOS and Android.

Let me get this straight. Beats updates Android appMicrosoft launches Office for iPad before even releasing a touch-optimized version for Windows 8 tablet. Apple reportedly mulling iTunes for Android

What a difference a few years make, eh?

Matt McGee over at Search Engine Land has learned that Microsoft is considering bringing Cortana to iOS and Android, based on the software giant’s appearance at Thursday’s keynote talk at the SMX Advanced conference in Seattle.

Marcus Ash, a Windows Phone Group Program Manager, and Rob Chambers, a Group Program Manager in the Applications and Services Group, said at the event that Microsoft is not interested in monetizing Cortana with ads.

As for an iOS edition, the two men said:

We want to scale Cortana internationally and across devices. The Android/iOS question is interesting. We’re asking, would Cortana be as effective if she didn’t have access to the details on your phone?

We’re still trying to get Cortana adopted on Windows Phone and figure out what it wants to become there.

But we’re actively talking about this.

Note: actively talking ≠ making.

Be that as it may, the execs said Microsoft wants Cortana to be “pervasive” and hinted she could be brought not only to iOS/Android, but to the desktop and into vehicles and other venues, too.

So there you have it.

cortana

Though far from an official confirmation, the very fact that Microsoft is publicly mentioning bringing Cortana to other platforms speaks volume of its new direction under CEO Satya Nadella’s leadership, and even more so in light of the surprise Office for iPad release.

Cortana will make its debut as part of the impending Windows Phone 8.1 launch. As for the technical difficulties the executives briefly touched on, a theoretical iOS build of Cortana could easily access iPhone contacts, calendar items, reminders, microphone, location and photos (with user permission), just like any other third-party iOS app can.

The biggest hurdle to Cortana’s adoption on iOS would be lack of deep system integration. Having been built deep into the bowels of the operating system, Siri is accessible anywhere with a long-press of the Home button.

Other search assistants on iOS, including Google’s standalone Search app with Google Now, don’t get to enjoy such unparalleled access to an iOS device.

This is why I’m unsure that bringing Cortana to iOS makes business sense. I could be wrong, of course: Redmond may be looking to put Cortana on iOS as a Trojan horse of sorts, to pique our curiosity and make us re-consider the Windows Phone platform.

With that in mind, if they ported Cortana to iOS would you give it a whirl? And if better than Siri, would you make her your go-to personal assistant?