Here Comes Windows 9's Killer App

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2014-09-18 Email Print this article Print
Windows 9 Cortana

Cortana is a top-notch virtual assistant. But here’s the most important fact: Windows 9’s killer app is Cortana, and Cortana’s killer app is Windows 9.

How Cortana Can Change Your Professional Life

Just say, “Hey, Cortana,” while you’re anywhere in your office, and Cortana for Windows 9 will be primed for a command or request. In general, it's like a mix between Siri and Google Now. Its main interface is a friendly, sometimes funny, human-like voice that you talk to like Siri, but it can do some preemptive interruption like Google Now does.

Cortana can send messages, take notes, remind you of items on your calendar, tell you sports scores, set alarms, play music, give you directions, tell you arbitrary facts, do conversions, give you flight updates, make calls and a lot more. It lets you narrow results with follow-up questions, and it supports geo-fencing, so you can say things like “remind me to talk to Steve when I get to work.”

Plus, Cortana does one thing that neither Siri nor Google Now can do. It’s got a feature called the Notebook, which stories everything Cortana knows about you, along with your Cortana preferences. You can see and edit all this personal data.

For example, you can list your family, so you can say things like “Call my daughter,” and Cortana knows who you’re talking about. You can set times of the day when you don’t want to be disturbed. You can set your locations, like “work” and “home,” so you can later ask things like “How long will it take me to get home from here?”

Cortana is a top-notch virtual assistant. But here’s the most important fact: Windows 9’s killer app is Cortana, and Cortana’s killer app is Windows 9.

Here’s what I mean: All the minor improvements in Windows 9 won’t fundamentally alter how you function at work. Cortana will. Good virtual assistants, when you use them, alter your relationship with your information and with the Internet. You’re more likely to do more and are far less likely to let things fall through the cracks.

More importantly, Cortana’s killer app is Windows 9. Because it’s Windows, the operating system you have right at your desk all day, Cortana will become a constant companion—a real assistant. Any time you’re in your office, or are within earshot of your PC or laptop, you’ll have access to Cortana, and can be prompted and reminded by it.

Cortana is the most radical user interface addition since the integration of the browser in the 1990s.

We have no reason to believe Cortana will be better or worse than Siri or Google Now. But thanks to Windows integration, it should be the most widely available ambient virtual assistant out there.

The implications for business and technology managers are that they and their teams will be more effective, more aware and more efficient with mastery of this soon-to-be ubiquitous transformation of the Windows user interface. It's comparable to the transition from DOS to Windows in the early '90s.


Mike Elgan, a Silicon Valley-based columnist, writer, speaker and blogger. is a Baseline contributing writer.


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