There’s increasing evidence that Microsoft’s personal assistant Cortana is being positioned as a key differentiator vs. Android and iPhones. A new TV commercial (below) purports to compare Cortana to Siri, with a mock Siri voice saying “I can’t do that” a number of times.
This morning Microsoft announced new geographies and new features for Cortana as part of Windows Phone 8.1. It also announced a range of improvements and upgrades for the Windows Phone OS in general.
The company is expanding Cortana’s availability to China and the UK (beta), as well as Canada, India and Australia (alpha). In China Cortana goes by the name “Xiao Na.” Indeed, in each market Microsoft is emphasizing Cortana’s “local relevance.”
US Cortana feature additions and new capabilities include:
- New natural language scenarios
- Snooze times for reminders
- “Neat additions to her personality (try asking ‘do an impersonation’ and see what happens)”
- “Ability to invoke Cortana hands-free in car for phones connected to car Bluetooth kits that are integrated with your contacts list. If your car kit is integrated with your contacts, you can now treat Cortana as a contact to invoke her, simply saying ‘Call Cortana’ and then talking to her as you normally would.”
Notwithstanding positive reviews for Windows Phones and good sales in Europe (mainly due to the Nokia brand), Microsoft has had difficulty with its Windows Phone messaging and with differentiation. Cortana my provide a powerful new angle for the company and a way to overcome some of the perceived deficiencies of the OS — like fewer apps.