With the formal announcement of Cortana already established, it seems as though we should gather and discuss the more significant aspects of her abilities, and what makes her different from industry standard google now. As an android user, and user of google now for about a year now, watching the entire segment on cortana gave me the opportunity to notice the differences between the two, which i'll get into here. I'm sure we all know about the basics by now, through all the leaks. So let's go in depths on the specific things mentioned during the build keynote.
One of the first things I noticed when Cortana was being asked questions in the demo, was her quickness. I must say, the speed of the speech recognition, and the response time from cortana was faster than I anticipated. It is definitely comparable to the levels of google now, and I look forward to comparisons between the two going forward.
One of my main gripes with Google now was the comparatively hindered interaction of the system. When using google now as an actual assistant, it simply falls short in comparison to Cortana. When using it as a search query, it performs extraordinarily well. I say this because when asking google now to do something productive, you either can't do it in comparison to cortana (reminding you to do something based on when you talk to a contact, or asking it to tell you your agenda for the day), you have to basically do it yourself by hitting confirm, thus forcing you to actively look at the task, basically doing it yourself. The fact that cortana relays that back to you through voice, in a conversational way, makes it a much better "voice assistant". Which, after all, every one of them are trying to be. This leads me to my next point.
Cortana is productive. The notebook is awesome, but that's not what makes it productive. What makes it productive, is the wide ranging commands that it can perform. Simple things such as setting modifications. And more complex things such as reminders based on conversations with people, tasks such as telling you your agenda for the day (which it actually tells you through voice), the knowledge to be able to tell you (again, through voice), when you make an appointment that conflicts with another. The ability to have her manage quiet hours, but still allow certain people to call you in emergencies. All of these things are tasks that Google Now, the current industry standard, simply can not do.
4. 3rd Part Extension
Most importantly, Cortana interacts with ALL of your apps, through 3rd party extensions. On google now, you can of course launch apps. With Cortana, you can do that as well. But she takes it a step further. Instead of simply launching an app, you can do a specific task for that app, through Cortana. The example they used on stage was one that personally blew me away. He asked cortana to add a certain television show to his Hulu plus queue. Let that sink in for a second, and think of the possibilities. In one swift voice command, a tv show was added to his hulu plus account, ready for him to view when he gets home. No fumbling through an app to add it. The same functionality will be presumably work with Netflix as well. The other example he used was, "facebook, whats up with [person x]". Cortana recognized the action, and took him to that exact person's facebook profile page. This was phenomenal. I can't wait to see it integrated in other apps as well. There was a list of 3rd party apps that already work with cortana, 3 of which included facebook, netflix, and hulu.
4. Everything you can do.....
Last but not least, there is something that I need to note. I, as well as many android users, use google now the majority of the time as a search assistant, and feed for things that tailors around you. This is my favorite part of google now. And this amazing functionality is brought to Cortana as well. I couldn't be more pleased. TV shows, news, sports teams, all of it, aggregated in a feed for you to view. Flight information? In that feed. Notifications, episode airings, breaking news, all the things that makes google now great, Cortana can do as well. And as i've highlighted, much more.
Overall, its crazy to say this because I love google now. It has been the industry standard in voice assistance. It's even crazier to say this given how long google has been at this, and how much experience they've garnered from it. But at this point, it seems rather clear that in one full swoop, MS has unleashed a new industry standard in voice "assistance" ai. Emphasis on the assistance. Because in truth, Cortana is the best voice assistant in the industry at the moment.