Microsoft has announced the long-rumored digital personal assistant, Cortana for Windows Phone 8.1 at the annual Build conference, aiming to take on Apple Siri and Google Now.

When Apple introduced Siri, they never thought their rivals will do the same. Users enjoyed the perks of hands-free commands and interaction with the smart voice assistant and then Google Now was launched. Microsoft must have been thinking its own version—and finally it’s unveiled.

Microsoft deemed the personal digital assistant as the “true” PDA that works similar its rivals, Apple Siri and Google Now, but much improved and designed to build a deeper relationship with the users.

The conference allowed the media and press to preview and try the upcoming Windows Phones powered by Windows Phone 8.1 such as Nokia Lumia 930, 635, and 630. The Cortana service is one of the highlights of the Windows Phone 8.1 that could attract iOS and Android users.

While the service isn’t new (since Apple have Siri) and still in beta, Microsoft aims to improve it and take the digital voice assistance experience to another level. Cortana gets to know users over time as they ask more questions, based on the behavior and choices from the past. In short, Cortana cares about users’ preferences and monitor interesting stuff that matters to them. It filters news that fits the users’ interests. Bing Search powers the service and will be available on Windows Phone 8.1 smartphones.

Features of Cortana

Single Press: If Siri requires users of hard press on the home button and Google Now in the search bar, Cortana is launched with a single tap on live tile or press the search button and it will be in a listening mode. Users can disable the voice control function, but the features and its search operations remain the same.

Customization in the Notebook: With Cortana, users can set their preferences, establish schedules of quiet and busy hours, define places, and set rules, allowing the voice assistant to figure out the their lifestyle and behavior. Users must be signed in to their account while Cortana learns more of them and also gathers data as they even search on Bing in the desktop client.

Setting Reminders: While Apple Siri and Google Now are good in setting reminders, Cortana is quite discerning in users’ reminders and is more sensitive to the natural language compared with Siri, which sometimes missed the exact words that users command (if it’s not a native English speaker). What’s more is that Cortana is specific in reminders, giving the user options to connect the reminder to a time, a place, or a contact.

Microsoft said that the Cortana beta version will be available in the coming weeks in the US and will roll out in the UK and China around the second half this year.

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