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I once wrote that Microsoft’s recent history of imitation over innovation needed to change if the company wanted to become a market leader in areas other than operating systems. Today, details have come out about Cortana, Microsoft’s Windows Phone answer to Apple’s Siri and Android’s Google Now services. The short version? It’ll work a lot like Siri. Surprise!

A post over on the Verge today has the details. The details seem to come from “sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans,” and images of the UI and settings page have also supposedly come from the unnamed tipsters. The post describes Cortana—named after the artificial-intelligence companion in Microsoft’s hit Xbox franchise Halo—as being represented by “a circular animated icon” that “will animate when it’s speaking or thinking, forming a personality not dissimilar to Apple’s Siri.”

Users of Cortana will also have the opportunity to make the digital assistant refer to them by a nickname—another feature cribbed from Siri. Moreover, Cortana will learn more about the preferences and habits of users the more they use the assistant, much like Google Now’s abilities to know when you’ll want to leave to make an appointment, or what sports scores you might want to know about.

Cortana, or whatever it’s called when it launches with Windows Phone 8.1 later this year. But will it be enough to distinguish itself from the competition? I can say honestly that while Google Now is a fun feature, it’s not like its presence has done much to make me appreciate Android more. Android is great because of its overall versatility, its widespread adoption by app developers and OEMs, and the customization options I have at my disposal. Up to now, I haven’t seen much from the Windows Phone platform to pique my interest. So far, the best argument for a Windows Phone is the super-cameras Nokia packs into its Lumia line.

So while Cortana might be a nice add-on, as ever, this feature feels like a pale imitation rather than a bold new step. Microsoft has no shortage of talent and brains on its team. With its new CEO Satya Nadella at the helm, I’m hoping that we’ll soon hear about new ideas coming out of Microsoft, rather than old ideas with new names and set dressing.

[Source: The Verge]

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