Microsoft’s Marcus Ash (Group Program Manager for Windows Phone) and Rob Chambers (Group Program Manager, Applications and Services Group) was at SMX advanced conference talking about Cortana, the Windows Phone voice assistant.
Marcus explained Cortana was not just about search, but that they were trying to change the behaviour of smartphone users. Cortana would for example, after a search, prompt users by asking if they wanted to “get more updates on this topic” and then feed this interest information into automatic predictive behaviour in the future e.g. automatically providing football scores after you search for the World Cup, making life easier for the smartphone user and anticipating what they want, rather than waiting for them to do it.
Cortana will gather interest information not just from the cloud, but also from data sources on your phone, like Gmail email accounts, which Microsoft would not otherwise have access to.
The assistant can current identity data such as reminders, dates, flight information and more from email, but Microsoft provided control to users by using Cortana’s notebook and asking users Yes/No questions when important deductions and inferences, such as your home address, was made.
Rob Chambers (Group Program Manager, Applications and Services Group), said the more people use voice search, the more comfortable they get.
“It starts to snowball into a pattern. They do more searches. As people see the value of language recognition, they use it more.”
He noted with Cortana WP8.1 users were doing 10 times more voice searches and that 10-20% of searches were Chit chat e.g. “Tell me a joke.”
Cortana rested on a foundation of Bing, and the “track interests” feature in Cortana is available now on Bing.com on your desktop. He expected Cortana to jump to other Microsoft platforms, but Microsoft was not at present planning to monetize Cortana searches with ads, but did not rule this out in the future.
Microsoft is bringing Cortana to China, an area where Google is not present at all with Google Now, and where Siri is tightly controlled. The digital assistant is also coming to UK and western Europe, Brazil, Korea, Japan and elsewhere around the world.
The release schedule will in part dependent on the roll-out of WP8.1.
When Marcus Ash (Group Program Manager for Windows Phone) was asked if Cortana will be coming to other platforms, he said:
MA: 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.
MA: The other tension with these assistants — will these become the reason you choose iOS or Android or Windows? If that’s the case, we definitely want people on Windows phones.
Read the detailed answers at SearchEngineLand here.