Cortana is bound for both Android and iOS via standalone apps planned for launch after Windows 10 brings the Microsoft virtual assistant to the desktop, according to Reuters. The Android and iOS versions of Cortana serve Microsoft’s larger goal of building more advanced AI features into Cortana, in a future iteration codenamed “Einstein,” the agency says, citing people with knowledge of the project. That would mean Microsoft’s recent willingness to play nice with competitors would extend to its virtual mobile assistant, which began as a value-add incentive for Windows Phone users.
If Microsoft’s goal is to truly build an AI-like assistant that can parse email and provide useful services based on what it finds, then the decision to launch a cross-platform version makes perfect sense – Cortana on Windows mobile devices reaches only a tiny sliver of the total mobile population, while offering even a standalone app, which likely can’t have the same kind of system-level access on either platform, opens up the potential reach exponentially.
Cortana on desktop probably help to serve the same end, seeing as Windows is still by far the most popular desktop computing platform. If Microsoft hopes to turn Cortana into something truly approaching genuine artificial intelligence, a key ingredient will be range and volume of inbound data points. Serving the greatest possible number of users if self-serving in that regard.
Microsoft is also being a lot less precious about its software and services. The new beta version of Office for Mac is impressive, and of course Office’s full mobile applications actually debuted on platforms other than Windows Phone first. The company, especially under CEO Satya Nadella, seems to recognize the value of reaching potential users regardless of their hardware and OS choices, and if Cortana isn’t a key driver of new Windows Phone device (and I’d argue it definitely isn’t) then expanding availability is the best way to serve Microsoft’s long-term goals.