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Cortana on the PC: Can we talk?

Matt Hamblen | Feb. 5, 2015
Cortana, the Windows Phone voice-activated digital assistant, now works on desktops, laptops and tablets running the preview edition of Windows 10.

Cortana, the Windows Phone voice-activated digital assistant, now works on desktops, laptops and tablets running the preview edition of Windows 10.

Microsoft began touting the new capability when it announced Windows 10 on Jan. 21 as a free, one-time upgrade for Windows users that will be officially released later in 2015. The upgrade will be available on devices running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 on PCs or tablets, or Windows 8.1 on Windows smartphones.

The Cortana capability will give PC and tablet users fast access to information and important reminders — with assistance from Bing and GPS — when invoked with "natural and easy" voice or typing interactions, Microsoft said at the time.

While Cortana on PCs and tablets goes beyond what Google Now and Siri on smartphones can so far offer, it isn't clear how popular, valuable or successful Cortana on PCs and tablets will be with customers. Based on Computerworld interviews with users, there's a fair amount of skepticism.

For business users, especially, who already have adjusted to software programs like Dragon Naturally Speaking for taking dictation, Cortana isn't seen as a potential replacement on their desktops.

Cortana does a lot more than take dictation. However, one important audience — millennials — may not like making voice commands on a desktop for performing tasks, especially after their years of relying on texting on their smartphones and widely avoiding the making of voice calls.

"Personally, I don't find digital voice assistance very useful," said Clayton Kohler, a freshman at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Kohler is working on a degree in finance and is involved in a startup called Mobile Maker to bring cutting edge technology to after-school programs. He's constantly on his phone or laptop or a desktop in classrooms.

"I have Siri on my iPhone now, but I still find it easier to type in a Google search for whatever I'm trying to find. I just don't think this new [Cortana on PCs and tablets] ability is that big of a deal. We're always finding ways to make tasks even easier, so I'm sure it will be popular, but I don't think it's important."

Rick Usher, an assistant city manager for Kansas City, Mo., said the cross-platform capability of Cortana "sounds like too much technology and not very useful." Voice commands are "handy when you have your hands full, but I don't see it being useful when you're sitting in front of the computer."

Usher conceded that Cortana "might be handy if we're talking about getting rid of the keyboard or the mouse" on the desktop, adding that eye-movement tracking could also be important.

Belfiore's testimonial to the contrary

 

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