Microsoft is almost ready to begin testing Cortana for the iPhone, with a limited public beta launching in the coming weeks.
Users who want to try the iOS beta version of Microsoft’s virtual assistant can fill out a brief survey on the iPhone model they use, what version of iOS it runs, and how often they use Cortana in Windows 10. Microsoft says it will start sending limited download links over email soon. At first, the Cortana beta test will only be available in the United States and China.
Microsoft first announced iOS and Android versions of Cortana in May, as part of an effort to offer its services across all platforms. The Android beta arrived over the summer, and is available to anyone.
The closed-down nature of iOS means Cortana won’t be as full-featured on the iPhone compared to Windows or even Android. Both of those versions, for instance, offer shortcuts for launching Cortana from anywhere, and support hands-free voice commands by saying “Hey Cortana.”
Still, Microsoft says the iPhone version will make a fine companion for people who use Cortana in Windows. It’s unclear exactly which features will be available, but support for reminders, event scheduling, daily briefings, and Bing searches seem likely.
The impact on you at home: Cortana is supposed to be a key feature in Windows 10, bringing up information based on what the assistant has learned about you. It makes sense for Microsoft to extend that experience to mobile devices without making people use Windows phones. But without deep hooks into the operating system, pulling iPhone users away from Siri won’t be easy. Perhaps the limited beta will let Microsoft refine its approach before launching for everyone.
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