The virtual assistant in Windows Phone 8.1 will be a mix between Apple's Siri and Google Now, according to a report. The assistant, thought to be called "Cortana" after the AI character in the Halo video game series, will apparently replace the Bing search functionality in Windows Phone, and will use data from services such as Foursquare and Bing to give it Google Now-style contextual awareness.
The assistant will resemble a circular icon colored to match the selected Windows Phone accent color, reports sources of The Verge. It will animate when "speaking or thinking," and will bounce or alter with "emotion" depending on what is asked of it, with the assistant itself said to have a personality similar to Siri.
Part of the way Cortana operates is dictated by the Notebook, a feature for storing personal information, contacts, location data, and other details it could use. Whatever Cortana learns is deposited in the Notebook for later use, with the user's permission, and can be used to provide suggestions or to help in search queries. Appointments and reminders can be created from the contents of messages or e-mails as well as Notebook information, with notifications on the weather, directions, and other contextual information also possible. The Notebook data can also be used to manage the do-not-disturb function, which will mute notifications except those relating to an "inner circle" of contacts.
While the details of what the assistant can offer is promising, it is noted the ability for Microsoft to interpret voice commands will dictate the success of Cortana. It is unknown if Cortana will be available on all Windows Phone 8.1 devices when the software rolls out, or if it will only be available to newer smartphones.
It is thought that Microsoft will not be detailing Windows Phone 8.1 at Mobile World Congress next week, with an appearance during Microsoft Build 2014 in April believed to be a more-likely venue for its launch.