by Jessica Dolcourt @jdolcourt April 14, 2014 5:00 AM PDT
Not everyone likes speaking commands into their phone, but for those who do, Microsoft’s new Cortana voice assistant for Windows Phone 8.1 is exactly the viable competitor to Apple’s Siri and Google Now that the company needs to keep its Windows Phone OS current.
Like Siri and, to a lesser extent, Google’s voice actions, Cortana is a personable (or vaguely person-like) voice-activated system for taking dictation, looking things up, and opening apps. (Yes, Halo fans — Cortana is named for Master Chief’s AI companion, and even voiced by the same talent: actress Jen Taylor.) Even in its early beta stage, Cortana mostly keeps pace with its rivals, and introduces one or two minor innovations that Apple and Google can learn from.
While Cortana isn’t revolutionizing the field of voice assistants, it does give Windows phones a sorely-needed boost in the voice option department — the previous generation, fueled by TellMe, was limited and impersonal. Out of all the additions to the Windows Phone 8.1, it’s Cortana that pulls the most weight keeping the Windows Phone in the OS game.