It sounds like we'll be waiting a while for Windows Phone's personal assistantEvan Selleck - Contributing Editor
Siri had a minor presence at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference, but that doesn't mean she (or he, depending on what you prefer your phone to sound like) doesn't have any cool new tricks up her sleeve. For one, Siri looks totally different than it did in its previous iteration. So, there's that. And while Apple did include some additional functionality, Siri is still just Siri, your lovable, always present digital personal assistant.
What Siri isn't, though, may be the biggest piece to chew on. Since Siri was unveiled to the world, she's been somewhat lost within the shadow cast by Google Now. I'm not going to go back and forth about which software feature offers more, or doesn't do something that the other doesn't, or about even what I prefer. Because this time around, I want to talk about Microsoft, and the fact that they're still waiting to launch their own piece of software.
Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile platform has been out in the wild for a little while now. It's had time to be cultivated, to mature, and find its footing within the mobile space against the major competitors out there, making a name for themselves. It's really up to you whether or not you think Windows Phone has accomplished any of that, in any real capacity, by now. Some would argue that Windows Phone is different, and that's all that matters. It still has plenty of the same features, but it's different, and that has to count for a lot these days.
And that's true. However, it's not good when you're "different," but a big reason of that is because you're missing features.
I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Microsoft has been kicking around Siri- or Google Now-like software for its mobile platform, but that it just hasn't found the right features to launch it quite yet. Or, more specifically, a reason to launch it. Because let's face it, just launching something that's like Siri or Google Now won't cut it. It has to do something they don't. In essence, there has to be something that a Windows Phone digital personal assistant has that makes it "better." Better is the key word.
Then again, maybe it's not that tough to get something like that. In a recent interview, senior director for Bing Stefan Weitz said that both Siri and Google now "have a fairly shallow understanding of the world." He went on to say that while they can find you directions to a restaurant, or even make buying movie tickets easy, they both fall short when it comes to things like telling you the circumference of Lake Erie.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that both Siri and Google Now aren't perfect, but no one should expect them to be. I will also be the first to admit that based on what Siri and Google Now are supposed to do, they do it well. If you use Siri, then you know the feature is worth it. And if you have Google Now and utilize its feature set, then you know Google's offering is definitely worth it. Hiccups happens, because technology. For the most part, both Siri and Google Now work very well.
I'd be willing to pay for Google Now, and that's the truth. I think it's that great of a service. And, if Siri had a bit more features like Google Now, I'd be willing to pay for that digital personal assistant, too. They're helpful in the ways they're supposed to be. In the ways that they are designed to be. Besides, asking Siri the circumference of Lake Erie gave me Web search results, which got me the answer. What else could I want?
What all this means, is that Microsoft wants to create something different. They don't want to make something that's simply evolutionary compared to Google Now or Siri. They want something revolutionary. When they unveil their own digital personal assistant for Windows Phone 8 (and you can bet it makes an appearance on Windows 8, too), they want people to be blown away by what it can do. They don't want it to be "just another feature." It sounds to me like they don't want people to just say they copied Apple and Google. And there's nothing wrong with that mentality, especially if it leads to some seriously compelling new features.
All of that sounds great, but it also sounds like we're going to be waiting a very long time to see anything from the Redmond-based company. And, while Microsoft is waiting, researching and developing things that the end user will probably never see, both Apple and Google are getting better at adding features to their own options. Microsoft can't hope to catch up if they just keep giving the competition more and more room to make better products and features. That is, unless Microsoft just wants Apple, Google and whoever else to do all the heavy lifting, so that they can utilize the "end result" to create something better in a couple years.
Utilizing information gathered from Outlook, Bing, Calendar, and any other Microsoft-branded service out there (including Xbox LIVE) could lead to some pretty great functionality. And if Microsoft can leverage the interactivity of Siri with the resourcefulness of Google Now to create a hybrid of the two, that's better simply because it does what both those things do but in one service, it sounds like they'd be moving in the right direction.
So, here's where I want you to chime in. What do you think Microsoft could add to the digital personal assistant idea to make it better, revolutionary even? Is it possible, in your opinion, for Microsoft to create something that can genuinely be better than Apple's and Google's offering? Let me know what you think.