A new update announced today will allow users of Android phones to replace their devices’ Google Now intelligent personal assistant with the more popular Cortana digital assistant from Microsoft. The update, version 18.104.22.168, lets users choose Cortana as their app of choice when they long-press or swipe up from the Home button on Android devices.
Cortana helps users with such tasks as sending e-mails, setting up reminders, scheduling events and doing Bing searches. Windows is making an early version of the app available for a limited number of users. A private beta version of the update was released in July. A public beta with the latest update is said to be forthcoming.
For now, Cortana for Android is only available in the U.S. and China. Microsoft user forums today contained numerous comments from users despairing that the update wasn’t available where they lived. Microsoft is promising frequent updates to the app to expand its features and functionality.
Default to Cortana
Microsoft is asking potential adopters to take a survey to get a download link. The update is also reportedly available via unofficial Android application package download sites. In the latest beta version, users can replace the shortcut for Google Now by pressing and holding their devices’ Home buttons, according to a report from The Verge. After the update, Google Now can still be accessed, but Cortana can be set as the default Home button setting.
The update is a result of Microsoft’s Windows Everywhere program, whose aim is to expand the range of Windows apps and services so that they’ll be installed on devices running operating systems not normally associated with Microsoft, including Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Microsoft has recently introduced other Windows apps to competing platforms. Redmond has also released the App Portability Bridge, which lets developers transfer existing apps between platforms.
Which One To Choose?
The update means that some Android device owners might have decisions to make. Google apps are considered to have superior Android integration than those offered by third-party providers such as Microsoft.
“While there are some features you’ll use on Windows that we don’t (yet) support on Android phones (like saying ‘Hey Cortana’ to wake her up), we have focused on making Cortana on Android the perfect companion to your Windows experience,” said Microsoft support engineer Anannya Podder on the Microsoft Community discussion forum.
Users who have installed the update are reporting that despite some missing features, Cortana for Android runs smoothly, especially if their devices are running Windows 10 and its notifications system. A Chrome extension will also enable Google Now to offer notifications, but reviewers are saying Cortana’s notifications are more polished.