Cyanogen to Integrate Cortana with Its Android OS

Cyanogen to Integrate Cortana with Its Android OS

Cyanogen’s CEO said in an interview this week that his firm would integrate Microsoft’s Cortana digital personal assistant into its version of Android. That’s good news, of course. The bad news? It is doing so in part because “people are not buying Windows phones.”

In April, Microsoft inked a major deal with Cyanogen, which creates an open version of Android and is attempting to end Google’s control of the mobile OS. Under the terms of this partnership, Cyanogen and Microsoft are together integrating Microsoft apps and services across Cyanogen’s open Android OS, including Bing services, Skype, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, and the Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote).

But this summer, Microsoft confirmed that it would be porting Cortana to Android (and iOS), and in July the software giant shipped the first early Cortana version on Android. It then followed that up with a version that replaced Google Now on Android, an interesting bit of OS-level integration. Clearly, Cortana will be coming to Cyanogen as well.

With Cyanogen, Cortana could be far more integrated with Android, however, and could even support voice control via “Hey Cortana.” This isn’t possible on stock Android (or iOS, for that matter). I’ve long felt that Android was Microsoft’s “Plan B” for mobile given the failure of Windows phones. Clearly, that can be further fine-tuned: Cyanogen Android is Microsoft’s Plan B for mobile.

This week, we learned more.

In an interview with International Business Times, Cyanogen CEO Kirt McMaster explained how Cyanogen and its partners would be releasing “big devices that are going to be iPhone and Galaxy-slayers next year.” In other words, he thinks he can succeed where Windows phones, Palm, Blackberry, Amazon, Nokia and countless others have failed, and break the Android/iOS duopoly. That he’s doing with an open Android OS that, yes, includes all the Google apps and services, is perhaps Cyanogen’s biggest advantage.

“If you are starting with less than what’s available on iOS or what’s available on Android, you are dead in the water,” he says.

And yes, McMaster tosses in Windows phones with the losers. “People are not buying Windows phones; it’s as simple as that,” he said. But there is one thing about Windows phones he really likes: Cortana. He said that Cyanogen was working with Microsoft to “deeply integrate” Cortana into its Android version, giving it a native OS experience, just as with Windows phones or Windows 10.

“Natural language coupled with intelligence is very important but as an application it doesn’t really work because you need to be embedded into the framework of the OS,” he explained. “That is where you get all the signals from the services that makes that intelligence smarter.”

Cortana, he explained, was “much better” than Apple’s Siri and even better than Google Now (which is admittedly excellent) “in some respects.”

“When Apple launched Apple Music at WWDC, they showed the Siri integration with Apple Music,” he told International Business Times. “Siri doesn’t power Spotify like that so we can do these kind of things with for example, integration of Microsoft’s Cortana into the OS enabling natural language to power Spotify and other services.”

Tough—but true—words on Windows phones. But this level of Cortana integration with Android is of course the holy grail. I’m eager to see how this plays out.

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