Bing, tell me that Cortana isn't going to flop

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| January 17, 2014

The title of this article might seem kind of confusing, given that it is addressed to "Bing". While you might think it was a typo, or perhaps that I don't know the difference between Microsoft and their Bing search engine (I have been known to blunder some of my titles and topics from time to time) what you're looking at is the key phrase that Windows Phone users will be expected to use in order to prompt Microsoft's soon-to-arrive digital personal assistant, named Cortana.

Cortana is a much needed feature for Windows Phone. The AI is already a popular subject among many due to the fact that Cortana itself isn't exactly a new concept - in fact, it shares the same name as the AI character in the Halo series, which is the personal assistant for the main character Master Chief. This alone already makes the Windows Phone Cortana something of an interest for Halo fans already, not to mention those who use or plan to use Windows Phone in the near future.

Cortana would be made to rival Apple's Siri and Google's Google Now, both of which are good in their own respects. However, both still have a ways to go as it would seem like Siri has certain advantages over Google Now's weaknesses, and Google Now has certain advantages over Siri's weaknesses. If you mash the two together, you'd probably have little to desire at that point. For those who now have eyes on Cortana, the hope is that this new iteration of a digital personal assistant will be the granddaddy of all of them and manage to perfect the digital PA altogether. So far, though, the outlook is off to a bad start.

Well, I guess I shouldn't say bad, but it's not great. I think given the name of the PA, as well as the fact that Microsoft had even gone so far as to use the same voice of Halo's Cortana in the Windows Phone version, made a lot of people eager to play into their fandom by addressing the phone as "Cortana", just as Apple's Siri is addressed as "Siri" and Google Now is addressed as "Google Now". However, it seems that Cortana will not be addressed so formally, and you will instead have the priviledge of calling her by another moniker: Bing.

"Bing, tell me" is reportedly the key phrase that will wake Cortana up, which wouldn't sound so bad if Microsoft hadn't played up the whole Cortana thing in the first place. If you wanted to call the service "Bing Live" or some other iteration of Google Now, it would be perfectly acceptable and expected. Otherwise, at this point you're already setting people up for disappointment. Nobody wants to address their Cortana AI as "Bing". "Bing" does not sound that cool to address (my apologies to any reader named "Bing" - you are cool). Cortana might not be the coolest name in the world either, but... well, it's better than Bing at least. And I'd rather have a conversation with my phone sound more natural than "Bing, tell me" because most people at least know that Bing is a search engine. Nothing sounds goofier than asking a search engine a question out loud. That's like typing a search engine query into your Facebook status by accident. Everybody knows what you're doing, but you don't really want them to know. At least asking Cortana, to some people, might sound a little more natural/cool. I don't know. I just really don't want to ask Bing questions in public.

I hope for the sake of Microsoft that Cortana doesn't flop. They have a pretty big advantage in a lot of ways of learning from the mistakes of Siri and Google Now as well as sharing the same name as one of the most important characters in one of Xbox's most successful titles. 

This is your time to shine, Microsoft; don't let this slip through your fingers. Make it so, number one!

Image via T3