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Here's what Windows Phone's rumored digital assistant needs to win you over

Florence Ion | Jan. 24, 2014
Microsoft has packed a wealth of features into the Windows Phone platform. It has live tiles that keep you constantly privy to what's happening, notifications on the lock screen, and even Office integration. But it still lacks one crucial element that has helped both Android and iOS rise to the top: an all-knowing personal digital assistant.

When "she" first arrived, half the fun of Siri was engaging "her" in conversations. Sometimes she would answer the most inane questions matter-of-factly, and other times she'd be poignant and aloof. Google, on the other hand, stuck with a generic female voice by default. It's pleasant, but it doesn't make you feel as if you're having a conversation with your Android phone.

Now, imagine if Microsoft fuses Siri's feminine mystique with Google's contextual awareness — that would be the perfect personal digital assistant. And with the trademark on the name "Cortana," the direct reference to the Halo gaming franchise should give that voice its own identity, separate from the smartphone it's trapped in. Throughout the games, Cortana is witty, sarcastic, loyal, and curious, often wondering aloud at the things she witnesses. A little bit of that would go a long way toward making your Windows Phone feel alive.

Easter eggs
If Microsoft really sticks with the Cortana name, it ought to hide some Halo Easter eggs in there for the fans. Ask Cortana about the Pillar of Autumn, for example, and your phone should spit back stats about the fictional ship. Tell her to "wake up the Chief," and she should give you the release date of the next Halo game. It doesn't make sense for Microsoft to put a lot of the games' lore in your face when you're using its digital assistant — its aspirations are to sell Windows Phones to a much bigger market than Halo fans — but Halo is by far Microsoft's most important entertainment property. A healthy dose of hidden tie-ins wouldn't go amiss.


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