Windows Phone 8.1 is slated for release in a month or two and while there’s not much fanfare over it as compared to new releases of Android and iOS, Microsoft has gathered enough attention to keep the whole world interested.
A list of features of Windows Phone 8.1 can be found here, one of the highlights of which is Cortana – Microsoft’s version of a digital personal assistant like Google Now for Android and Siri for iOS.
There’s nothing groundbreaking with Cortana in terms of what it can do. However, the most interesting bit is how it is the most transparent to end-users compared to its Android and iOS counterpart. Mike Elgan explains:
But unlike both Siri and Google Now, Cortana is extremely transparent in what it knows about you, and in what it’s set up to do.
This transparency exists in a feature of Cortana called the Notebook. It’s basically a document that stores all the personal information Cortana knows about you. For example, it might know your spouse’s name is Tyler, so you can place a call on Windows Phone by saying, “Call Tyler.” If you simply delete that information from the Notebook, Cortana will “forget” the name.
You can also add personal information as easily as you can delete it.
It’s not so much that Cortana has this cool and unique feature. It’s that Microsoft is embracing a pretty radical form of end-user transparency, besting even Google in that department, at least in the case of virtual assistant technology.
The transparency of Cortana is not only great from a privacy perspective but from efficiency as well. With the Notebook feature, we users can actually program or ‘teach’ Cortana with much more freedom and control as compared to how Google Now and Siri does this on their own which doesn’t always end up the way we want it to.
Would the Notebook be Cortana’s key to success? Would Google and Apple follow suit in terms of giving us more control over how their digital personal assistants work? We will all see very soon.