Could Microsoft's rumored 'Cortana' help Windows Phone adoption?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| September 21, 2013

Microsoft and mobile operating systems have had quite a history with each other. From the early days of Windows Mobile to Windows Phone today, you can see just how far Microsoft has come in regards to implementing the popular desktop OS into a handheld device. But although Windows Phone might have a smooth and intuitive UI, there are certain features that the devices lack that hinder its adoption rates so low compared to Android and iOS.

It's no secret that the lack of certain applications are a big part of the problem with Windows Phone. And it's not just the lack of applications that are stopping people from wanting to switch to Windows Phone, because as it turns out there are plenty of mainstream applications either present or on its way to the Windows Phone Store - but the design of many applicatios are far from ideal or smooth. Even if the UI of the phone itself is smooth, if the applications don't follow suit then a user's overall experience of the device isn't exactly consistent. But there have been rumors of Microsoft coming out with a new feature for Windows Phone devices - a feature that has been increasing in popularity across multiple platforms lately.

Personal virtual voice assistants have started becoming mainstream since the introduction of Siri in Apple's iPhone back in 2011 with the iPhone 4S. Siri was one of the main selling points of the 4S because it was the first voice activated control system that was as advanced as it was. Not only could you command it to do several things throughout your phone, but it even supported some application integration. This made a lot of functions in the phone quicker to access and complete. It wasn't too long after Siri was released when we started to see Google Now in Android devices. Although Google Now focuses more on delivering general knowledge and performing web searches and Siri is more focused on the functions of the phone itself like phone calls and sending text messages, both features have their strengths that make them woth using.

And now it seems that Microsoft may be getting in on the game with a personal assistant of their own, codenamed Cortana. Some of you may recognize the name from the Halo series of games. Cortana is an artificially intelligent character that provides tactical information to Master Chief, so the name is nothing short of fitting for the role.

Up until this point, Microsoft hasn't had anything to compete with Siri or Google Now. Since personal assistant integration is just now starting to pick up real traction, I feel like it's not too late for Microsoft to be able to take it to another level if they really wanted to. Since Google Now and Siri both have their differences that make them worth using, this could be Microsoft's chance to shine if they were able to make Cortana capture the essence of both Google Now and Siri. Cortana already sounds promising because it is rumored to be featured across all of its major software products like Windows OS and XBox One, which helps with Microsoft's goal of being able to unify their platforms with similar features.

I think if Microsoft can pull this off and make sure the product not only works well, but also works better than its competitors so that it can use this to their advantage. I haven't yet experienced a virtual personal assistant that I used on the regular (or for anything that wasn't "Hey Siri, tell me a joke,") but I could see myself using it sometime in the future if it was intuitive and reliable enough.

Microsoft's Windows Phone still needs a lot of work in order to really boost their adoption rate, but if Cortana is done well enough it seems like something that could boost interest in Windows Phone, at least initially. Microsoft still needs to focus on more than just adding modern features, and I don't think they're going to get too big of a jump in adoption rate until their applications are honed upon.

Readers, what are your thoughts? If Cortana did end up being the most advanced personal virtual assistant on the market, would it be enough to switch to Windows Phone for you, or would you be holding back still for another reason? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Images via The Verge, Forbes