Does Cortana Coming to Android and iOS Spell the End for Windows Phone?
Microsoft is planning on bringing their Windows Phone exclusive digital assistant, Cortana, to iOS and Android devices, according to Reuters. The largest problem with this series of events unfolding is the fact that Microsoft has this little thing called Windows Phone to worry about. Windows Phone only represents about 5.1 percent of the cell phone OS’s shipped in 2014, according to CustomsToday, which means there are millions of Windows Phone users. A large majority of those users are running devices that offer Cortana, a Windows Phone exclusive (soon to come to Windows desktop/tablets). If this does happen, Cortana will join other Microsoft apps/programs/services, such as Office and Bing Search, which have jumped ship from being Windows Phone exclusives to become cross platform in the phone/tablet market. What this means for Windows Phone though is troubling to say the least.
In this new Microsoft we are seeing there is a lot of turmoil. This is partly due to the new(ish) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Satya Nadella taking the full reigns of Microsoft. Under Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer, Microsoft was Windows only, Windows all the time. Now, things are taking a 180 and rather than being super focused on their own platforms, Microsoft is branching out to anything that is popular. They are transitioning from a software company to a services company and that is new water for Microsoft, to say the least.
In the past Microsoft would only support their own Windows platform with new software. Sure, Office was able to break out onto the Macintosh line of computers but it was not perfect. The Mac version of Office was always a version or two behind the Windows version, this made the Windows version the best to use and to do that, you needed a Windows computer. With this new Microsoft though, that will no longer be the standard.
For this new Microsoft to survive in the services world they will not be able to keep iOS/Android versions of their services a version or two behind the Windows or Windows Phone versions. Users won’t go for it. In the past there was not a lot of option for users. For Mac users, for instance, it was a the feature lacking but still light years ahead of Apples’ version of an office suite or switch to Windows. Mac users dealt with the problems in either office package and went on the best they could, there was no Twitter or Facebook to complain on and get a few hundred thousand people riled up with you. Microsoft was safe in their own little microcosm of computers. They no longer have that safety net.
It is not exactly a perfect world for Windows Phone users as it is. Versions of various Microsoft apps, and many 3rd party ones, are a version or two behind the same apps on iOS and Android. The roles have reversed so to speak. You would think that Microsoft would make sure the Windows Phone versions are the best of each app but they are not. Microsoft has pushed features in different apps out to iOS first, almost forgetting they have a phone of their own to worry about. Cortana was the shining light in the darkness that Windows Phone users could hold up high and proud. That is now being taken away too, leaving Windows Phone users nearly in the dark.
Cortana uses Microsoft’s Bing search engine for it’s “smartness”, the same as Apples’ Siri. Google’s digital assistant uses Google search, of course. All of them require a certain amount of access to your personal data and how you use your phone to offer suggestions and answer questions. Cortana is just a marketing term with a digital voice, similar to a frontend for old programs, which makes Bing voice controlled. With that said, it is just an evolutionary step for Microsoft to bring Cortana to iOS and Android. The question is, what then will be the reason to purchase a Windows Phone?
If you have the capability to side load apps on your Android smart phone you can get a copy of the Cortana beta. Right now, it is too early to tell what capabilities Cortana will have on Android or iOS outside of basically being a voice controlled search veil for Bing.