Why Microsoft can't simply bring Cortana to Android

Experience is what matters, project manager tells search conference

An interesting couple of articles today from our sister site Windows Phone Central, regarding the possibility of Microsoft bringing its Cortana voice assistant (think Google Now) to other platforms, including Android. Of course, bringing Cortana to Android isn't as simple as just saying "Hey, let's bring Cortana to Android." And Cortana project manager Marcus Ash does a great job explaining the thought process that goes into even considering such a move.

The video above is from the SMX Advanced search marketing conference in Seattle, and it's absolutely worth a watch.

Said Ash:

"If I'm a Windows PC user and I have a Kindle tablet and an Android phone, how good is the Windows Cortana experience going to be if it doesn't know anything about what I'm doing with those devices? It's really a difficult question that we're spending a lot of time trying to figure out."

Would Cortana actually add anything to a traditional Android experience? Maybe, or maybe not. Gotta love that Microsoft is at least exploring the idea in the theoretical sense.

Source: WPCentral (1, 2)

Phil Nickinson
  • Go over to the comment section at WPCentral, Phil. I think you're in for a couple of laughs with people almost wanting to burn down Microsoft for even considering that lol
  • I remember a similar reaction when Google Now got to iOS. Posted via Android Central App
  • The "waaaaah, I don't want anyone else to play with my toys" reaction is platform-agnostic.
  • As an Android user, I'd rather Google spend more time improving their apps in Android, rather than releasing apps for their competition. It doesn't give me the impression that they really give a rat's ass about their own platform.
  • Google is about their services. Their platforms are just that, platforms for their services. They want other people's platforms to also be platforms for their services. I can understand your position, but let's say you want an android phone, a macbook air, and a Windows desktop, then you'll be very happy about their business model. Posted via Android Central App
  • OS X & Windows are already Google platforms by extension of the web era we live in tho, their services work fine in a browser window (often their own browser at that). Porting something to iOS is a little different... Not that I'm against it, as long as iOS still commands between a third and a fourth of the market then it's worth it for them (personally I like WP better but I can see how it's market share is still borderline irrelevant, though growing).
  • There are two reasons WP isn't doing well. One is the fact of lack of updates to it's windows mobile line. Particularly WM 5 and 6. That burned a lot of users who switched to Blackberry as their main corporate device. I was one of them. WM 5 and 6 was so terrible (on the HTC Touch Pro and Touch Diamond) that it was almost unusable for anything but a phone. Two, because of that, they got caught up in the Blackberry, iOS, and Android ecosystems making it hard to switch back. That and due to lack of customizability that users got accustomed to (on Android) they left MS at the back of the line. MS was too late to the game to catch up. Sure their market share is growing but they will never, EVER, reach the level of iOS or Android. MS did this to themselves, not the users.
  • Actually WM 5 and 6 AND Windows Phone 7 which was also ditched by Microsoft a couple of months after the launch of the first Nokia Lumia phones (which were the ones that made WP a thing).
    So yes, Microsoft did indeed burn a ton of users of their mobile offerings in the past. However, they've been doing a pretty good job with WP8 lately. I don't believe WP will ever catch Android. Unless, of course, Samsung decides to give a helping hand by burning Android to the ground with Tizen.
    iOS on the other hand I wouldn't be so sure. Sure Apple still has the brand value and A LOT of people just buy iPhones to show off. However Apple themselves have been in a midst of blunders lately, with the failed iPhone 5C at the top of it. "Emerging" markets will not buy overpriced iPhones, that's a fact. And so those billions that are to be made on those markets will be disputed between Google and Microsoft. That alone may be enough to Microsoft to actually catching up with Apple.
  • Failed 5c? It's the #2 or #3 best seller on the 4 major U.S.carriers. I wouldn't call that a fail.
  • pappy, you obviously didn't read that they qualified their statement by stating "emerging markets" ... the US is not an emerging market so your Fail is negated.
  • 'I can understand your position, but let's say you want an android phone, a macbook air, and a Windows desktop, then you'll be very happy about their business model.' Actually, I'm not really, since they won't release native apps for Windows, which is the only platform I'd really like to see them release on if they're going to port apps to other operating systems. Would be nice to have a single app in the task tray for all my Google notifications (Voice/Plus/etc), rather than a hodgepodge of shitty browser extensions to make the whole thing work. Or some Metro apps would be cool too.
  • Have you noticed how much I care for bitchy comments these days? :)
  • CrackBerry is loaded with some entertaining bitchy comments :p Posted from my TARDIS!
  • Yeah I was a blackberry owner at one time and have tried to open the eyes of others. Don't get me wrong, I would still want to rock a Blackberry but the company itself and their efforts is what pushed me away. Anyways I still wish them the best but you are correct. I was one of them. Posted via Android Central App
  • Same here I had a curve and then for a short while I had 9780( I think it was called) and then switched to iPhone 5 in November 2012 and then may 2014 galaxy s5 it was the app store that killed me Posted from my Nexus 7 2013 or Samsung galaxy S5
  • Burning down Microsoft is an idea I can get behind. They have been a cancer on the world for far too long.
  • I think a lot of them are still pissed that google won't bring services to WP. Even though they will tell you how much better MS services are. I tried a Lumia 920 and switched back to android because the lack of my favorite apps at the time (though most are their now) and because lack of Google apps I use daily.
  • I think it's a very interesting idea. From the time I've spent with Cortana since 8.1 went live for developers, I've found it does what it does very well for the early stages that it's at currently. But...... It's no where near as functional as Google Now is so if it were to come to Android devices, I really do not believe I'd bother using it. That being said, I'd prefer Microsoft continue to improve the Windows Phone platform instead of allocating time and money trying to bring Cortana to Android our iOS.
  • You're absolutely right but sadly, many Windows Phone users think Cortana is somehow more advanced than Google Now and it's blinding their opinion on the matter. While I really like Cortana, it's not exactly a disruptive advancement in mobile technology, even if it does have a great 'personality'. Because of this, Windows Phone users are up in arms about the possibility, because they think Cortana is some unique, exclusive feature.
  • I was really surprised at just how good it is, though. Really is nicely tailored for Windows Phone.
  • Android needs desperately a good personal assistant. GNow is OK but it seems as if it doesn't fit an advanced OS from it's lack of personality and robotic voice to an extent . Siri in it's current form blows chunks in it's lap. Samsung's PA is atrocious! So if they were to port Cortana to Android, it might be a god send to users as it would make Google get on the ball and make GNow what it really could be.
  • I have no clue what you are on about, Google Now is a better personal assistant than all the other "personal assistants" on other platforms. You do know that the voice alone does not make it useful right? Posted via Android Central App
  • HUH? I do know what I'm talking about. And no, in my opinion, GNow is NOT the better assistant. And yeah, I know the usefulness of GNow without voice...but is that what I'm talking about?
  • GNow is an excellent personal assistant, but I think we need a system-wide personal assistant.
    Now does a good job with calling and setting alarms and timers, but something like controlling system settings would be nice. Correct me if I miss something. I use Now all the time as its extremely useful, especially during the World Cup. Posted via Android Central App
  • I agree about the system settings, but that's going to be almost impossible with Google having no control over the actual devices that Android gets installed on. They will have no way (at least, no simple way) to program Google Now to know *how* to change system settings. I figure, at some point, Google might come up with some kind of API and hope that the OEM's will tie their stuff into it.
  • You can add SVOX app with Victoria UK voice. You can make it sound like Lara Croft.
  • LOL, yeah I've done that. Sexy as hell! Heck, I was even using the guy who sounded like a butler for awhile!
  • I agree. It is a nice feature, but not something I use on a daily basis.
  • Hi. I have the Verizon LG G 2 with Google Now , but prefer Cortana. I just think Cortana has Google Now beat
  • It would be great to have Cortana on Android. I'd that most people would probably buy a Windows phone because of that feature. Heck I was even considering trading in my Nexus 5 for a windows phone when I saw all of the Cortana review videos on YouTube. She's awesome. But I think Cortana is too important for Windows Phone right now. It would just be adding another great feature to Android along with all of the others it already has, instead of benefiting Windows. IMO. Posted via Android Central App
  • Hmm, honestly Cortana is definitely really good, but it's nowhere near good enough to make me want to switch to windows phone. It simply doesn't do much more than the competition that makes it a feature I would want to switch platforms for. Posted via Android Central App
  • Cortana is nice, but Google now is still a lot better than Cortana. That said, I hope it really improves on Windows phone! So far so good, and hopefully they just keep getting better! Posted via Android Central App
  • While GNow's functionality is great, I wouldn't call it better. GNow's lack of personality keeps it in the dark ages. You know what I mean though. Example: Call Dave....long pause....phone rings Dave, Dan, or Dad because it didn't say who it was dialing. Don't even get me started using GNow with BT. Received text from Dave. Read now?...YES...reads text....Reply?...No...Say your message or Cancel....Cancel....Then it brings up the definition of cancel on the screen without actually ending the connection.
  • If that's how your Google Now works, something is wrong with it.
  • In three years they will be a software services company outside of mobile that builds good computer accessories. If Microsoft gets out of the mobile devices and OS game they could be a rock star. And maybe even drive innovation. Posted via Android Central App
  • I bet they kill Windows Phone in 2015. They have been keeping with the same strategy for 4 years now and it hasn't brought them success yet and it doesn't look like they have anything new to change their fortune. Without a drastic rebrand they will never get beyond 4% market share. Posted via Android Central App
  • ...4% marketshare in the US. In Italy it's past 10%, same with a few other European countries. India is seeing significant growth (1/4 of WPC traffic is from India) and the same in Latin America. The problem is, US media focuses on US numbers, even though market share say in Russia, surpasses iOS (and in 22 other markets). Windows Phone has had slow but steady growth. Microsoft won't kill it, not for a long time. More so since Windows RT will be supplanted by what is now known as 'Windows Phone OS' sometime in 2015 (part of 'Threshold'). At that point, 'Windows Mobile' will be Phone + devices/tablets under 9-inches. Windows proper will be laptops and PCs. They will all share the same core and app-platform, including Xbox One, resulting in universal apps that can run across screens. This ground work started with Windows Phone 8/Windows 8/Xbox One (same kernel), and reached a significant milestone with 8.1 with 90% overlap in app libraries and APIs. That will only increase, going forward, until you can 'code once, deploy everywhere'. That is their goal, make no mistake. That, I think, is the more accurate future for Microsoft's mobile strategy.
  • Is that so?
    Globally, Windows phone is at about 2.7% of marketshare. What happens in italy (population 1/5th of US) doesn't mean a damn.
    2.7% globally. Stupid fanbois.
    Posted via Android Central App
  • 2.7% for an OS that's still immature and only two years old (following badly insulting their customers by killing all previous phone systems, e.g., 6.x and 7)....?? I remember Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone and saying he'd be thrilled with 1% of the US market. Plus, Mobile's too strategic. Meanwhile, MS has the potential to badly mismanage their Nokia mobile acquistion, but OTOH, a number of Chinese and other Asian companies are starting to roll out new lines of affordable Win Phones (aimed for now mostly at developing Markets and China), and yes, the misbegotten RT is being rolled into Phone ala iPhone and iPad, so no, I don't see them giving up for a good spell.
  • 2.7% after two years is pathetic. Do you know where Windows mobile devices were in 2012?
    2.6% of global market share.
    Windows Mobile is a dead end. The best that can be said of it is that they're not collapsing like Blackberry. Posted via Android Central App
  • bahahahaha. IDK if you're aware who Dan is; either way it's funny.
  • Exactly what I was thinking.
  • I agree. RT should be replaced by Windows Phone. I see no purpose for RT on tablets in its current iteration.
  • "Microsoft won't kill it," Heard the same thing about the Zune, and that was a far better .mp3 player than the ipods at the time.
  • Dominating or participating in the portable music player market at the time didn't have the far reaching implications that the smartphone market does though (or even the videogame console market to an extent). Anyone could see other devices would eventually displace dedicated players. I was already using my dumb phone as an MP3 music player around 2007 (before the Zune's eventual demise). The main long term large scale impact of the iPod was the music distribution side (beyond mind share and branding but that's another story and it's not like MS was thinking of making their own phones until the Nokia deal, Kin debacle aside)... Online music distribution isn't terribly high margin and nobody could have predicted Apple would get a stranglehold on that anyway. Getting all four major labels to agree on something was probably a larger achievement for Jobs than most Apple product launches, even though it was just a vehicle to sell more players. I'm not sure it would've panned out the same way without him (look at how Hollywood is squeezing Netflix). So yeah, Zune & WP are very different IMO. Zune is more like them killing WebTV or Bob. :P It had more potential, but nobody really cared anyway and the industry was moving in another direction.
  • If Google can afford to give Android away until it's profitable in other ways, MS can surely sink money into WP until it attracts more OEMs or they manage to make it profitable in other ways. Ignoring the mobile market would be far more expensive in the long run... What was that line from an AMD exec (ironically) a few years ago? Best way lose a fight is to not even show up.
  • Back to using Google Now and comparing Cortana, actual function over witty response wins. I like both but Google now is more deeply integrated into the system. Posted via Android Central App
  • Bingo. I rarely use the voice stuff. But Google Now always has relevant info when I need it without being asked for it. Cortana is a good competitor to Sir I, but neither approaches Google Now. Posted via Android Central App
  • I rarely use voice stuff either. I use Cortana to search via typing. I don't even like talking ON the phone, so I certainly have no desire to talk TO my phone.
  • My daughter doesn't use her phone as a phone either. She texts everything or listens to music. Annoying. Especially when me or her mom tries to call her about something important and she has the ringer off....
  • There weren't any cellphones when I was growing up, but I just never liked talking on the phone even then. I use smartphones for what I would have used PCs for when I'm on the go and not near a desktop PC. The "phone" feature is an afterthought for me, since I never liked phones.
  • Good points :)
  • +1
  • I disagree. As a PA, GNow is lacking. A lot of the things such as adding a reminder or a calendar entry still requires touch interaction. This is where Siri excels because you say it and forget it (until it reminds you). For relevant information at hand without asking is where Gnow shines. GNow is more about delivering you information as where a PA is more about you giving the phone information. I know, there's a fine line there but that line is still there.
  • I never had iPhone so I can't speak on Siri . My content is only based between GN and Cortana. Posted via Android Central App
  • GNow doesn't require any more physical interaction than Siri. Less if you have a Moto X. Posted via Android Central App
  • With GNow, when you set a reminder or calendar entry, you have to hit set or remind button on the screen for it to take effect. With Siri, you don't. Unless there's been update to Gnow lately I don't know about.... For the last 3 weeks I have been using the 5S and about to pull my teeth out...
  • They've rolled out an update that let's you use your voice for reminders. It works very well. It'll roll out to other functions soon. Posted via Android Central App
  • Thanks. I've been stuck in the Apple land....long story.
  • As an Xbox gamer I speak from experience when I say that Microsoft loves saying they "Can't simply do X" followed by them doing it.
    Xbox One DRM "We can't simply turn it off" ...a month later turns it off
    Kinect "We can't just unplug it!" ...a month later you can unplug it
  • As a hard-core Xbox fan I find that to be one of the most accurate comments I've read here in the comments. Aside from just making better phones that can compete with android and ios, Microsoft seems to do everything that the users bitch for them to do. Posted via Android Central App
  • Exactly. Lmfao. Posted via Android Central App
  • Sometimes, to their own detriment.
  • Why would anyone want a Microsoft service on their Android? :P Posted via Android Central App
  • I hear ya. I haven't owned\used a Microsoft product besides my Xbox in a long time.
  • For work, perhaps? Employers might use Office, not Google Docs.
  • Except that there are apps that allow me to open Office Docs on my Android phone already. Either way, we're already expecting Mobile Office on Android any day now.
  • Because Microsoft is awesome. What happened to you that you don't like then? I could care less for Apple and their feminine products that are over priced and rated. I could care less for Google due to the fact that they are stalkers and because they are the ones with the annoying ads that pop up on me all the time. Posted via Android Central App
  • GNow is great for delivering personal relevant information to you without having to ask for it. But as a PA, it lacks functionality and personality. I've tried using dragon on every phone I've owned and it just kills your battery. So if they were to port Cortana as a PA to supplement GNow, it would be a win/win for people who DO use PA features to feed a phone info instead of just retrieving info.
  • It lacks personality?
    Who gives a flying fig?
    As for functionality, it works great. I can input info easily. And the really brilliant part is, 99% of the time, I don't actually need to input any info. Google Now pulls flight information directly from my email, it knows my route to/from work and warns me about accidents without being asked to it tracks my packages and now it even sets up appointments for nebulous not-quite-plans, and more... All without me having to input a damn thing. Hell last night it warned me that J would need to leave in 5 minutes to catch the last bus home from downtown. Cortana and Siri are just cute toys compared to GNow.
    Posted via Android Central App
  • LOL, Functionality is awesome on GNow. Not disputing that. I'm talking note taking, turning on/off features of the phone (android is just starting to do this) and telling it to add a contact card to MMS to send to someone...things like this. And yes, Siri is just a toy directed at tweeners. But it does a few things nicely.
  • Personality does not make something useful and as far as features, Google Now is beyond all the others. You do know what Google Now can do right? Posted via Android Central App
  • NO? Why don't you tell me? What I'm talking about is after you say a person to call, why can't it repeat back the person you said so you know it dialed the correct person? If I'm using BT, it's a crap shoot. If I'm looking at the screen, I can click cancel before it dials but if not, I would like to know it dialed the correct person. This is the personality I'm talking about. Like this: Call Dave on mobile....call dave on mobile correct?...Yes....calling Dave. As of now..it's: Call Dave on mobile...ring..... And sometimes, not sure if it's a glitch or what, but it will do this: Call Dave on mobile...Calling dave....ring....
  • You're talking about something different than everybody else though... :P That's really more about handless / voice command functionality than the true PA functionality Now aspires to. For some people the two are intrinsically tied, but a ton of people couldn't care less about the voice aspect. Personally I only really use it when cooking or driving and in both instances I usually have the phone in view. I'm not disputing that what you're arguing wouldn't be a nice improvement btw.
  • Well said and i agree! Posted via Android Central App
  • I've seen a number of comments like this, and I'm not sure what's up with your Google Now, but mine definitely repeats back to me who it's about to call and gives me about 10 seconds to say "Cancel" if it picked the wrong person, or I can just say "Call" and initiate the call immediately if I see that it's got the correct contact. The only "jankiness" I've experienced with Google Now is if you have multiple Google Accounts, it only seems to find contacts via voice search from the first account you put on the device. That's been a nuisance a few times where it couldn't seem to find someone who's contact information I *knew* was on my phone.
  • But the Nokia x has it isn't it? Posted via Android Central App
  • Put it in your web browser and tie it with a universal search app. I would think bing would be a good place to start.
  • Can't?? Try won't Posted via Android Central App
  • I would love to pay for cortana and google bow has certain delays at time but google needs an assistant that can actually speak back to you in a conversation type of way like siri yes they did implement prices of that on the droid turbo like droid turbo what's up? And theyll respond text and time or nothing at all if no notification is present but yes google now gives you a time limit when calling
  • this guy is talking out of his butt cheeks. there is no reason why they can not make cortona available to all platforms through a simple app.
  • Heh, I found this article using (a leaked copy of) Cortana on Android. :-)
  • It's not as if Google's voice assistant concept is anything special. Any dev team with funding could do better than Google Now, Cortana or Siri when it comes to quickly integrating a lot of features. There just isn't anything that hard about making voice recognition where the user is willing to program voice commands. Rambling detection is very hard, but when the user trains the app for explicit commands there aren't a lot of limits to what you can do. It takes some imagination, but mostly just a team of ppl DEDICATED to making everyday function work with voice. Google is the main dev for the android platform. You could drop all non Google programs form the Play Store and still have a pretty good platform these days. A couple dozen more commands and apps like Siri, Cortana and Google Now or whatever retard name or lack of name Google is going with. I don't know why they can't name things with any sense or why they can't focus on a project and actually get it done instead of endlessly going in every direction. I hate that about google. They've started and failed at so many stupid projects. Even the google self driving car is really well outside of anything google needed to be doing with their time when their core OS is still rather unstable and half developed. Their office apps are total crap for how long they've been out. Their email app is complete crap compared to something like Outlook where you have real formatting, real font control and just all the other rather minor touches it takes to make professional email instead of email clearly written in in the limited ability of Gmail. Android and Chromebook aren't anything special and people would jump ship on ANY tablet or phone maker for the latest greatest feature. Yet google can't be bothered to work on features that would define their platform instead they just keep trying to be everything and do everything and mostly fail at finishing their ideas. Google Now should be 10 times the app it is today and the same can be said for almost all google key apps. Cortana, for it's dev time, is easily the best voice app right now. Google should be scared of the Win 10 desktop mobile combo. Al the negative BS hype is going to change the fact that Windows is hands down the mature go to desktop of the masses and that's much harder to get people to change then merely getting them to buy a phone or tablet, which really aren't much more than toys. Windows Mobile keeps getting better, Windows store keeps filling up with apps and the desktop market alone is all MS ever needed to corner the mobile market because people are going to go for a unified experience once they understand the benefits. With Cortana helping lead the charge people will eventually realize they are missing out on tons of features because even though Android is good for mobile, it's nearly useless as a desktop app. Google can't make a desktop OS in just a few years. MS can make a mobile platform because mobile platforms are mostly meaningless crap filled with useless apps. That's not as hard to compete with as people think. MS doesn't need thousands of malware apps like Android has. They just need the key apps and good syncing because that experience is so much better than anything Android can bring people will want those features. MS is already well ahead in seamlessly syncing to the desktop and google relies far too much on the Chrome browser at a time when all web browsers are bloated, slow and unstable still other than perhaps Edge which is just too simple without extensions. The way mobile apps works is you don't need the biggest library. most apps are just disposable trendy crap. Once a game like Angry Birds runs it's course, you can't port it to another platform to make people care. It's like a TV show, you only need the top shows to draw people to a platform. Cortana is one of the top shows because people like voice recognition weather they fully realize it or not. It's a neat feature than can wow people and now that the thrill of smart phones and tablets are wearing off people need smarter apps to actually get real use out of mobile platforms. As it stands it's an aweful lot o work to use a mobile platform for almost anything other than the most simple tasks because no matter what anyone says.. onboard keyboards just suck ass and always will. If a tiny keyboard was something people wanted, we would have seen tiny keyboards mass produced years ago :). Voice helps remove some of that interface bottleneck that the mobile market can't get past. There isn't much point in spending 800 bucks on a tablet with the power of a PC just to run Android, but there is for Windows. So.. Android should be very scared. Win 10 is rapidly becoming a great platform and the fact not a lot of people realize Windows Mobile is pretty good just means Google is that much more unprepared for reality as the windows store starts to grow exponentially. Android also seems to be extremely insecure, especially with all those old android devices out there. That''s a big problem if you link your real email into those. I don't think ppl really want t keep spending 600-800 on phones. The bottom is just going to fall out of the market as people realize the high end smart phone doesn't do enough to justify the cost for it's lifespan. Android can't get powerful enough fast enough to use the hardware in top end cell phones already and the result is just mass useless options and totally inefficient app management. Now Intel is going to bring full fledged OS's right into phones. Is there even a need for first generation mobile OS that doesn't scale up ? I'd rather just have Linux Tablet edition than Android's silly collection of toy apps. At some point Android is just another Linux distro splintering the market with no real direction and that's all because Google didn't realize they would need a desktop laptop OS to lock down their mobile market share. We have millions of man hours into the Android OS and app library that could have been spent improving our production OS's instead of splintering app development. Now what? We wait for Google to somehow expand their little mobile OS out into the desktop trying to ride out the most profitable platform of the week. I don't think so.. I think masses of people will wind up switching to the MS Mobile platform because it's going to be a lot easier for MS to catch up to Google and it's army of trendy crap apps than it will be for Google to break into the desktop market. The fact they splintered Chromebook and Android only makes it that much harder to put it all back together now.. which is what they realize they have to do because they know Windows Mobile is a huge threat. It's kind of like Netscape for MS all over again because MS can integrate everything that Google does into the OS and Bing isn't that bad anymore. If IE hadn't been so viru sprone it would still be the top browser.. people only change defaults when they have a good reason. You can run the full Photoshop app on a damn 130 dollar RCA Windows 10 tablet. No other platform can compete with that. The developed world doesn't need dirt cheap android tablets. They want tablets that do a lot more or basically laptops that are very light and have longer lasting batteries and better power management... aka exactly what Windows 10 was made for.