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Review: Siri-like Cortana fills Windows phone gap
Tech » Virtual assistant combines Siri’s personality with Google Now’s knack for anticipation.

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Cortana: "All right, where should I remind you?"

Me: "Home."

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Cortana: "OK, what should I remind you about?"

Me: "Turn off the stove."

Cortana: "When would you like to be reminded?"

Me: "When I get home."

Cortana: "Sure, remind you when you get to home. Is this the one you want?"

The suggestion wasn’t for my home but "Home Restaurant."

Microsoft says Cortana will figure out where you work and live over time.

Cortana is still in a "beta" test mode, so these kinks are to be expected.

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Cortana is fine for basic queries, though sometimes you have to ask a few times. In requesting directions, I sometimes get a simple Web search for my destination address. But repeating the address then gets me actual step-by-step directions.

I asked all three virtual assistants on Friday whether I needed an umbrella. Siri and Google Now both told me I didn’t, based on the fact that it wasn’t raining. Cortana answered, "I’m not entirely certain." All three then presented a forecast.

By Sunday, Cortana seemed to have figured out I didn’t need an umbrella. But I asked the same question 10 minutes later and got Web results for "Do I need an umbrella?"

Both Siri and Google gave me movie times when I asked, "When is ‘Frozen’ showing?" Clicking on a time took me to a ticketing service. Cortana simply conducted a Web search.

Cortana warns me of conflicts when adding a calendar event, but the warning comes after the fact as a "by the way." Siri warns me ahead of time, while Google Now offers no warning at all.

Ask Cortana to "tell me a joke," and she tries to text "a joke" to my cellphone, or "Me" in the address book. Cortana also won’t compose email. Siri and Google Now do both email and texts.

These are all small points that I’m sure Microsoft will address over time. The company plans to keep Cortana in beta and limited to the U.S. until the second half of the year, when the assistant will also debut in the U.K. and China.

Perhaps by then, Microsoft will offer a male voice, the way Apple now does with Siri.

In the meantime, enjoy interacting with Cortana. You can ask her to sing a song.

Cortana’s improvements over Siri and Google Now aren’t enough to compel a switch from an iPhone or Android phone, but Cortana does address an omission in Windows Phone for those already thinking of getting one.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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