Right now you can download and install a leaked version of Microsoft's Cortana voice assistant for Android. Suffice it to say, I am whelmed.
With the launch of Windows 10 at the end of this month, we've been expecting a beta of Cortana on Android, and it seems like this is the real deal. We can't be totally sure, but Tom Warren at The Verge sure seems to think so, and his Microsoft sources are rarely wrong. (An iOS version is also coming later this year.)
After installing, you'll be prompted to login to your Microsoft account, and sure enough you can do all sorts of voice assistant things from there. Cortana will search the web for you and in some cases provide you with a voice response.
"How old is Barack Obama, Cortana?"
"53," the computer responds.
You can also have Cortana set alarms for you, and yes, Cortana will respond like a regular human when you ask questions like "How are you." (Cortana says "Great, thanks.")
The one really cool feature is location-based reminders. So I asked Cortana to "remind me to buy milk when I'm at the store", and it automatically pulled up a list of supermarkets nearby where I might want to buy milk. Google Now by contrast requires that you enter the name of the store where you'd like to buy it. Smart Cortana!
The leaked version isn't really anything you wouldn't expect. It's a little rough around the edges, but it should be more useful and refined as time passes. The big question is whether people like me who love Google Now will opt-in to the service, when they have already got a native voice assistant that works.
From what we've seen so far, Cortana doesn't appear to be enough, but we'll know for sure when Windows 10 reveals all its secrets in a couple of weeks. One thing that could be really compelling is setting reminders to pick up the milk / dry cleaning / etc from your Windows 10 desktop or laptop computer, and having them pop up on your phone when you're near the right location.
Pictures: Nick Stango