A few days ago, Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, became available for download. This is not the official launch, and it’s not clear the software is ready for all Android devices. It certainly didn’t function properly on my Nexus tablet.
Several people have already written about it, and it appears to be fully functioning for some. I downloaded it onto my Nexus 7 and was able to execute certain functions and commands. However, I had difficulty with others. I had planned to do a Cortana vs. Google (Now) comparison post but will have to defer that until later.
I was able to do some, but not all types of searches. I successfully set calendar appointments and reminders and got driving directions. But I had surprising difficulty sending email, conducting local searches, or getting answers to simple questions such as “How much is the Dollar worth vs. the Euro?”
Many of my queries yielded a blank screen (see above right). Presumably, it’s the fact that I was using a tablet and not an Android handset that caused this. But it shows the software isn’t yet ready for prime time.
There’s a lot that’s impressive going on under the hood with Cortana. But as with Yahoo’s launcher-assistant, Aviate Cortana will have to clearly differentiate on Android (and iOS) or be relegated to also-ran status. That may be somewhat easier for Cortana on iOS than Android, given Siri’s weaker position and functionality.
Google-Android users, by default, are going to be more likely to call upon Google voice search and Google Now than they will be to use Cortana. That’s unless Cortana can develop some uniquely useful or attention-getting features that are clearly different from or better than Google’s similar capabilities.
Right now, I didn’t see that differentiation in my quick tests. By contrast, I now exclusively use the Outlook iOS client on my iPhone for email. My primary email address is a Gmail address, but I prefer Outlook’s functionality to the native iOS email app or the Gmail app.
To me, that suggests that Microsoft has the capacity to win over iOS and Android users for Cortana, which is also a front door to Bing queries. However, it looks like it’s going to be quite challenging to do so.