Cortana for iOS Enters Beta Territory

Microsoft this week launched a survey for Windows Insiders, seeking candidates for a limited beta of Cortana for iOS.

“We’re testing the Cortana for iOS app with a limited number of users in the U.S. and China before releasing [it] publicly,” Microsoft spokesperson Jennifer Reynolds told TechNewsWorld. The full app is slated for release later this year.

Selected testers will get the app in the next few weeks. Microsoft will deliver frequent updates to the app to improve its features and functionality.

Targeting Insiders makes sense, according to Wes Miller, a senior analyst at Directions on Microsoft, as they already are engaged with Windows and, most likely, Cortana.

No ‘Hey Cortana’ Now

Microsoft reportedly has been conducting alpha tests of Cortana for iOS internally for the past six months. It apparently looks and works like its Windows 10 and Android versions.

The beta will support reminders, event scheduling and email. However, some features on Windows 10 — such as the ability to wake up Cortana by saying “Hey Cortana” — won’t be available on iOS for now, Microsoft said.

“If I could take the survey and beta test the software, I would be first in line,” Tyler Reguly, a manager of security research at Tripwire, told TechNewsWorld. “I’d love the opportunity to test it.”

Windows Insiders expressed enthusiasm over the chance to get in on the testing.

“I’m super pumped for this as I use Cortana all the time for my desktop and Surface,” Insider YaleLeber wrote on the Microsoft Community website. “This will make it 1,000 times more useful for just about everything the platform does. Move over, Google Now.”

“Canterrain” is self-described as a “heavy user of Cortana on my Surface Pro 3” who “used to love it on my Windows Phone” but was forced to switch to iOS. “Desperately miss Cortana. Especially now that I upgraded my Band to the Band 2.”

“Been waiting for this also, super excited!” enthused BenChristen. “Hoping that Apple really works with Google and Microsoft to allow complete integration of Cortana if desired.”

Cortana’s Potential on Other Platforms

Microsoft decided to release the limited beta “so they can get a feel for what’s going on,” said Laura DiDio, a research director at Strategy Analytics.

“They don’t want to get overwhelmed. It makes sense to get feedback from the installed base or from folks who want to beta test it first,” she told TechNewsWorld.

“I do seriously get ticked off with Siri,” DiDio remarked. “Her favorite thing to say is, ‘I didn’t quite get that.'”

Cortana is integrated into Microsoft’s own products and Siri into Apple’s platforms, so the value they provide is first and foremost to their own stack, and that’s not going to change any time soon, Directions on Microsoft’s Miller told TechNewsWorld.

The user who has the most to gain from Cortana on iOS “is the one who has an iPhone but is comfortable and invested in the Microsoft stack of Windows, and possibly Office on Windows,” he observed.

Cortana on iOS “won’t replace Siri,” Miller pointed out. “It’s additive to the platform.”

What’s at Stake

Providing a cross-platform personal assistant “all boils down to bragging rights,” said Strategy Analytics’ DiDio.

The iPhone “is incredibly popular,” she said. “Microsoft’s very much the challenger and still has to score a home run with Cortana to … create a real buzz and get people to feel like they have to use it.”

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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