Digital Personal Assistants War: Siri vs. Google Now vs. Cortana

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By Pavithra Rathinavel | April 7, 2014 10:12 AM EST

The line-up of digital personal assistants got a new debutant in Cortana when Microsoft announced its Windows Phone 8.1's most intriguing add-on during the Developer Conference on Wednesday.

Many of high-end smartphones have voice command-based digital assistants as a necessary feature. Other than voice search, digital assistants can also make calls, send texts, take notes and set reminders/alarms. In addition, they have the ability to connect with wearable devices with voice command controls.

Cortana, Microsoft's intelligent digital assistant is, in many ways, similar to Siri and Google Now. Here is a comparison of all three digital assistants.

Cortana

With Cortana, Microsoft is making its foray into the fast evolving feature of "digital assistants" for smartphones. Cortana can be used to make calls, send messages, set alarms, take notes, recognize music, get reminders, find hotels/malls/restaurants and track calendar, among others. It is powered by Bing. The highlight of Cortana is its ability to understand "natural language" and learn about the user.

According to Digital Trends, Cortana stores all the information about the user in a notebook, and users can edit this notebook to help Cortana assist them better. Upon granting permission, Cortana can access users' emails, track their location, observe their browsing history, keep track of the meetings, etc.

Cortana can understand "context," which is the ability to trigger actions based on events. This unique feature allows Cortana to keep track of the previous query/request and tie it to the next or following requests/queries.

Also Cortana does not require users to follow a format in asking a question. Users can reword the queries in different ways and still can expect an effective answer. In addition, users can type down the questions instead of using voice command option similar to Google Now.

Cortana is coupled to all the different apps in the device, which includes third-party apps. Users can command Cortana to check out Twitter feed.

The other striking feature is "people reminders." Here, a user can ask Cortana to remind him of his cousin's basket ball game the next time he makes a call and Cortana will pop out a reminder when he makes the call.

Siri

Siri got to be the most prominent one out of all the digital personal assistants. The sporty responses from Siri to user questions are very prominent in the blogosphere.

It can make calls, send messages, launch apps, play music, answer questions, gives reminders, and schedule meetings. It supports voice recognition functionality. Notably, with the latest software update for iOS, Siri got a face-lift in the form of bettering the accents of different languages, especially the British accent, which sounded phony until the recent update.

According to Digital Trends, "When Intelligent Voice surveyed 2,330 iOS owners last October, two years after Siri was introduced as a feature of the iPhone 4S, and it found that only 15.2 percent of them had even tried this feature."

Hence it is not very clear as to how much of reach Siri has with its iOS users. Nevertheless, Cortana seems to give a tough competition to Siri.

Google Now

Google Now can do all that Siri can do. Upon giving permission to monitor/collect data about the user, Google Now can do quite a lot.

According to reports, it uses the individual search history to understand the user's interest and provides breaking news, articles, movie reviews, sports scores that user might be interested in.

The striking feature about Google Now is the ability to analyze, relate & stitch together the complicated events on its own. Say for example, "Google Now can keep track of a purchased ticket, study the user's travel itinerary and pop out a schedule reminder ahead of time without any intervention."

Google Now also supports voice recognition.

The End

Although Cortana is capable of doing what Siri and Google Now can, Microsoft has added some unique and more personal touch to their digital assistant. In specific, "People Reminder" feature is an impressive example.

The handicap of Siri (Apple, in general) is the fact that Apple does not have a search engine or email ecosystem of their own, while Microsoft and Google has this advantage.

This is the superiority both Google Now and Microsoft are exerting to assist the users better and more personal. Overall Cortana looks promising and it has the potential to take the personal digital assistant feature to the next level.

What do you think of Cortana? Will Cortana alter the digital assistant landscape? Feel free to leave a comment. 

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