Microsoft’s Cortana digital voice-assistant has been a big part of the Windows 10 rollout for a good reason: it’s a thoroughly useful service with great Windows tie-ins. The big problem has been fragmentation; what happens when you want to leave your PC or Laptop and actually go outside?
The reverse has been the case for Android owners. Google Now is a solid, reliable digital voice-assistant, but once you sit down at your computer it can get a lot less useful.
Microsoft’s solution? Cortana is coming to Android. That’s actually no secret; the beta has been out for a while now. The big news is that Android users will be able to select Cortana as their default assistant, over-writing commands that would normally trigger Google Now and routing them through Cortana instead.
This is potentially an important move. The whole point of a digital assistant is to make things easier. Accessing Cortana through an app on the Android Home screen is enough of an obstacle to make it not worthwhile. Replacing Google Now with Cortana makes things much easier, and gives you the benefit of cross-platform utility.
Apple fans have had Siri to cover them across iPhone, iPad and Mac for a long time now. While the larger portion of users tend to ignore Siri's existence, there is a not-insubstantial portion of the market that loves and uses Siri across multiple devices.
There's no reason to think Android and Windows 10 users wouldn't feel the same way.
Soon, it appears, if you own an Android, you’ll be able to have a single, easy-access digital assistant handling your life across Android phones and tablets, as well as any Windows 10 PC, laptop, tablet and even eventually Xbox One.
Is Cortana better than Google Now?
Not really, but it’s not worse. Both Cortana and Google now have their own strengths and weaknesses. Cortana has some great options for notifications, such as handing you a reminder then next time you speak to a specific contact. The down-side is that it is stronger when used with Microsoft services, like Bing search and Bing Maps, rather than the more-popular Google alternatives.
Google Now is strong thanks to its tie-ins with these very same Google services.
Both assistants have the ability to make calendar dates, send messages, feed you reminders, perform searches and find you directions, among many other functions.
At this point in the mobile game, you shouldn't have to rely on two separate digital assistants across your devices if you don't want to. Nor should you have your experience diminished by accessing your assistant through a clumsy third-party app. This ability to set Cortana as your default across both Android and Windows 10 will be the kicker many users may have needed to choose one assistant over the other.
The Cortana for Android app is currently in beta for US audiences only, with no precise release date publicly scheduled.