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What does Microsoft get out of Cortana on Android, iOS?

Gregg Keizer | March 17, 2015
Serves as 'connective tissue' that ties and binds Redmond's services, says analyst.

That's the same reasoning that led Microsoft to offer Office, notably a slick Outlook app, for iOS and Android before the same arrives on Windows.

"This will reinforce the value of Windows 10," argued Dawson, referring to the Cortana-equipped upgrade scheduled to ship later this year. "Microsoft wants customers to have an integrated experience, a complete experience across all devices. But although Cortana is a headline feature on Windows Phone, the most common scenario will be a user who owns a Windows PC with a non-Windows phone."

By pushing Cortana on Android and iOS, then, Microsoft still serves the Windows master, theoretically making Windows 10 -- which the firm is aggressively pushing through, among other things, free upgrades to consumers running Windows 7 and 8.1 -- a more attractive platform.

But there's another reason, one with the long game in mind. "Cortana is the connective tissue that has been somewhat lacking in Microsoft's services," said Dawson.

Unlike Apple's Siri, Cortana strives to be more than a reactive responder to simple questions. Microsoft's ambition is to make Cortana a tool that also offers up a host of contextual information, the choice of content based on what the service has previously learned about an individual.

It behooves Microsoft to expand the source pool: The more intelligence Microsoft gathers, the more intelligent Cortana will seem. "Outlook on iOS, OneNote on Android ... all these things will suck in data for Cortana," which becomes the bridge between devices and its apps, said Dawson.

But will Google and Apple play ball? After all, they control the official distribution channels for Android and iOS apps.

Not to worry, predicted Dawson. "Apple's moved away from [rejecting rivals' apps], and Google approves everything," he said.


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