Report: Microsoft building Siri-like personal assistant for Windows Phone

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Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is at work on Cortana, a voice-enabled personal assistant for Windows Phone designed to rival Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) popular Siri feature for iOS, ZDNet reports.

The Cortana app--named after an artificially intelligent character in Microsoft's popular Halo game franchise--first surfaced in June under the codename "zCortana," appearing in screen shots culled from an early Windows Phone operating system build allegedly obtained from a Lumia smartphone purchased on eBay. Little attention was paid to Cortana at the time, but ZDNet reports the app is a critical component of the so-called Windows Phone Blue update expected in 2014, stating it will leverage machine-learning technology and the Bing search engine's Satori knowledge repository to allow users to interact with their device via voice command.

Microsoft executives first hinted at plans to build a new type of personal assistant technology in 2011. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also alluded to Cortana in a July memo outlining a company-wide reorganization that focuses on delivering services and devices for individuals and businesses optimized for use at home, at work and on the go. Ballmer said that moving forward, Microsoft will offer "a family of devices powered by a service-enabled shell," adding "Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it."

The shell also will "broker information among our services to bring them together on our devices in ways that will enable richer and deeper app experiences," Ballmer said in his memo.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

Windows Phone Blue is also expected to bring a notification center, enhanced multitasking and improvements to built-in applications. Microsoft is reportedly trialing an intermediate Windows Phone 8 operating system update expected in late 2013, highlighted by a new rotation lock feature, user interface tweaks and revamped status icons.

Gartner reports that Windows Phone represents 3.3 percent of worldwide smartphone sales, far behind Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android at 79 percent and Apple's iOS at 14.2 percent. Earlier this month, Microsoft reached an agreement to purchase Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) mobile phones business and a license to its patents and mapping software for $7.2 billion, a move that promises to give Microsoft the flexibility to accelerate the development of Windows Phone-powered devices and allow the company to compete more effectively against Apple and Google.

For more:
- read this ZDNet article

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