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Microsoft's Cortana assistant now available on iOS and Android

Microsoft's Cortana assistant now available on iOS and Android

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After months of testing and feedback, Microsoft is bringing its Cortana digital assistant to iOS and Android today. It's the latest part of the company's Windows 10 push, combined with an increased focus on cross-platform services and apps. Microsoft originally launched Cortana exclusively for Windows Phone last year, but the service has now evolved into a new way to connect Windows 10 PCs and smartphones running Android or iOS.

That connection debuts today in the US and China, with new Cortana apps that allow Windows 10 users to share data across PCs, Android phones, and iPhones. While the Windows version of Cortana will still be more powerful than its iOS and Android counterparts, Microsoft has been working on ways to improve the integration on rival platforms. Microsoft partnered with Cyanogen earlier this year, and it's now clear that Cortana is a key part of that partnership.

Cyanogen is making Cortana more powerful on Android

"They're going to take the Android base experience [of Cortana] and integrate it," explains Marcus Ash, Microsoft's Cortana program manager, in an interview with The Verge. Both of the iOS and Android apps will handle the basics of Cortana's ability to track flights, packages, interests, weather, and reminders, but the Cyanogen version will support "Hey Cortana" to activate the assistant with just your voice. The Cyanogen integration also allows Cortana to toggle network modes, power of a device, enable quiet mode, and other system features.

Microsoft has enabled many of these features on the Windows version of Cortana, but developer restrictions with Android and iOS mean it's more difficult to integrate Cortana fully. Cyanogen seems to be one answer, but that's not stopping Microsoft from trying to improve Cortana on iOS and Android. "We start with some of the communication scenarios, and think about how we can do more of those," explains Ash. Microsoft is also investing heavily in the idea of "task continuation," where you can share data and resume activities or tasks across multiple devices.

Part of the "task continuation" idea debuts today with the ability to reply to missed calls with a text message on Windows 10 and Android devices. It's a small example of how Cortana can run across different devices and keep them all in sync intelligently. This won't be available on iOS just yet because of Apple's developer restrictions, but it's easy to see where Cortana is heading in the future. Microsoft has noticed a lot of positive feedback around notifications. "You'll see us do some really interesting work there," explains Ash, hinting at more additions to task continuation. "With a Windows 10 PC in the mix we think we can do some pretty powerful things."