Cortana for iOS and Android
Microsoft’s virtual assistant is launching in the UK on non-Windows platforms, writes Blair Hanley Frank
Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant is getting a facelift on iOS and Android, aimed at making it more useful for users, and also bringing a bit of brightness to its dour interface.
The app’s biggest change is the launch of a button that lets users quickly choose between a suite of common actions, such as viewing their calendar at a glance, checking reminders or getting a weather forecast. The app itself looks friendlier, with a purple gradient background (see right) replacing a stark black, white and blue colour scheme.
On top of that, Microsoft has announced that the iOS and Android versions of Cortana are coming to the UK. The firm has been slow to expand its virtual assistant’s geographic reach until it has been set up to work with local social norms and other expectations.
The Cortana app is a key part of Microsoft’s strategy for its virtual assistant. Windows smartphones are an extreme minority compared to the iOS- and Androidpowered devices that overwhelmingly dominate the market. If Microsoft wants Cortana to be ubiquitous, it’s important to invest in an app that works on other platforms.
The virtual assistant is a major feature of Microsoft’s Windows 10 push, along with its larger ambitions around powering intelligent assistants. Cortana is competing in a crowded market, against the likes of Siri, Alexa and the Google Assistant.
In addition to the redesign, Microsoft also said the app is faster than its previous version, which will be helpful for competing against other assistants.
The update is available to Android devices now through the Google Play Store, and the iOS app will get updated early 2017.