Cortana: Will Microsoft’s Rampant A.I. Soon Infect Apple Devices?

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)took several jabs at Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Siri in a recently launched commercial that touts its own voice-activated personal assistant, called Cortana. In the commercial, an iPhone 5S with Siri is compared to a Lumia 635 smartphone that features Cortana running on Windows Phone 8.1. As seen in the video above, Cortana is able to successfully perform several tasks that Siri cannot do.

At the user’s request, Cortana creates a reminder to wish the user’s wife a happy anniversary next time he speaks with her, and another reminder to purchase roses the next time he is near a flower shop. Finally, Cortana volunteers a traffic alert that shows the user the fastest route to get to a restaurant. Although Siri is unable to complete the user’s requests, Apple’s personal assistant has apparently mastered the ability to deliver puns, since it concludes by quipping, “Now that is a ‘smart’ phone.”

While it is hardly surprising that Cortana would outperform Siri in a commercial made by Microsoft, the ad does highlight the digital assistant’s impressive ability to perform contextually aware tasks. By linking the reminder to a specific person in the user’s contact list, Cortana knows to provide a “happy anniversary” reminder the next time he communicates with his wife. Similarly, Cortana is able to provide a reminder to buy roses when the user is near a flower shop by attaching the request to a specific geographic context. Finally, the contextual notification about traffic conditions is based on Cortana’s knowledge of the user’s calendar.

Besides flaunting Cortana’s contextual awareness, the advertisement also offered further evidence that Microsoft is positioning Cortana as a direct competitor to Apple’s Siri. Microsoft first revealed Cortana’s multi-platform ambitions in a keynote presentation given at the Search Marketing Expo (SMX) Advanced conference in June.