Apple has Siri and Google has Google Voice Search/Google Now. Microsoft is the only one out of the big three that has yet to make its own personal assistant/potential love interest. If recent rumors come to fruition, however, Microsoft may have the most easily recognizable assistant of them all.
The Verge reports that the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 will ship with new software called Cortana - named after Master Chief's AI assistant from Microsoft's successful Halo video game franchise. It's being built as a replacement for the Bing search feature on Windows Phone, but it will also sport the features users have come to expect from personal assistants like Siri and Google Now.
What may help set Cortana apart from its rivals, however, is its personality. While one could argue that Siri and Google Now have personality, the presentation is lacking. Cortana will reportedly be an animated icon that bounces around the screen, shows emotion and delivers results in a voice similar to Siri's.
Interestingly enough, Microsoft will also be integrating advanced privacy controls into Cortana in the form of a featured called Notebook. This will let users control just how much information Cortana can pull from your personal data, including location data, behaviors, contact information and more. It's said that Cortana will also pull information from outside services like Bing and Foursquare, but it's unknown if users can control what information it can pull from these services.
Microsoft probably hopes users don't restrict Cortana too much, however, as it reportedly will learn and react to situations through frequent usage. While it probably can't predict behavior, it will learn when to alert users to specific notifications and texts based upon their content.
By basing Cortana off of the character from Halo, Microsoft is pulling from the long standing sci-fi concept that interacting with AIs will one day be indistinguishable from interacting with actual humans. While Windows Phone 8.1's Cortana is unlikely to be that advanced, the name alone inspires that kind of wishful thinking.
Let's just pray Cortana doesn't end up being a modern incarnation of Clippy.
Image via Halo Nation Wikia