Cortana and its New Diary Functions

Let Cortana say goodbye to missed appointments and unread emails

“Call Donna at 6 pm…” “Meet Eric outside North British Hotel…” “Don’t forget milk…” A busy schedule could see us forget the little things, whether we are 23 or 83 years of age.  It could be anything from remembering the tram times to knowing which platform the King’s Cross train is on.  A lot of the above problems could be solved with diaries, notebooks, electronic organisers and apps.  If you’re lucky enough to have a Windows Phone and a PC with Windows 10, enter the latest Cortana update.

Though Cortana has been with us for the last two years, its latest function allows you to plan meetings and set reminders with ease.  Its latest update allows Cortana to scan your emails and set reminders related to appointments.  Which, if your memory’s fading, is a Godsend. On the other hand, it seems Orwellian but, Cortana will read your emails and set reminders on your local machine. According to Microsoft, nothing will be passed to third parties, nor read externally.  This YouTube clip from Microsoft describes its features.

Cortana’s new diary functions are being developed by Microsoft Research.  Their main role is the creation of new and unique ways of interacting with emergent technologies. The technology is based on similar mechanisms used for tracking flights and parcels.

Any Cortana enabled PC and smartphone is able to keep an eye on emails sent to your device.  With its appointment functions, it can be used to suggest an alternative date and time.  For example, you receive a message that states:

“Meet Donna in Leith, 6 pm.”

Then you realise – or rather, your device also realises – you have an appointment at Jamie’s Italian at 5.30pm, for two hours on the same day.  It’ll allow you to send an email saying you cannot fulfil the latter date.  Or you could ditch the date with Donna, although she may be a little upset.

If you are sat in front of a PC with Windows 10, it will also remind you of your future appointments in the same fashion.

If it works well (should Microsoft keeps its word on the privacy settings), Cortana’s new update will be a boon.  Not only for busy executives, but also elderly people.  We think it will be a good move for Microsoft, even if Windows Phone remains third to Android and iOS devices.

Cortana on desktop PCs and Android devices

Microsoft announced the extension of Cortana onto Windows 10 PCs and non-Windows Phone mobile devices. The Redmond-based company has demonstrated their commitment to its speech-based rival to Google’s counterpart. Their speech-based system is available on Windows Phone devices. Could its extension to personal computers be a boost for its ailing smartphones?

“Cortana will be everywhere”

Windows Phone user interface (is Cortana on it?).

A Windows Phone user interface. Illustration by Bloomua/Shutterstock.

Microsoft is banking on its role in The Internet of Things. Could we see a Cortana powered fridge-freezer in the Argos catalogue soon? Or a Windows Phone being used to control the central heating? Its relaunch could be more modest, with Skype and MS Office integration its early dalliances.

Furthermore, Windows Phone has been deemed as a dead platform by some critics. In spite of this, its position as a smartphone platform for cost-conscious mobile users sees the ‘dead’ phone as Britain’s third most popular mobile OS. Perhaps Cortana could be a hit in the UK again (“No, that was the Ford Cortina!” – Ed).

Whereas Steve Ballmer regretted Windows Phone’s late release (losing out to Google and Apple), Microsoft’s present CEO, Satya Nadella, gave it a three-year stay of execution.

A Turning Point?

In today’s cloud-orientated and mobile-friendly landscape, the old insular approach that would have worked 20 years ago is no longer valid. Satya Nadella has been quick to notice the change in trends and elaborating on Cortana’s strengths could be a good place to start.

Windows Phone and the spiffy Windows 10 Mobile has its fans, primarily in the UK and France as detailed in a previous article on our blog. On the other hand, Satya has realised how Cortana has been undersold as an app on a single system.

In the long run, Windows Phones may be passed on to young children whose older siblings or parents have opted for Android, iOS or Windows 10 Mobile devices. With Windows Phone users being able to roll back to Windows 8.1 Mobile, this will extend the life of older devices. For now, we await developments with great interest.

For more information, the Windows Blog offers another view of what could be a game changer for Microsoft.