Because Microsoft’s mobile operating system has a tiny share of the smartphone market, the company has been forced to get creative about distribution. Recently, the company announced a third-party SDK strategy for developers and device makers (Amazon is doing something similar).
Now, a forthcoming update will make the virtual assistant accessible on the Android lock-screen. According to MSPoweruser:
Once you install the new update and open Cortana, it’ll ask you to enable “Cortana on lock screen” — and clicking on the “Add Cortana to my lock screen” button will enable this feature on your phone. After that, a simple Cortana logo will show up near the bottom of your lock screen and you can swipe the logo left or right to open up the Cortana panel — similar to how the camera shortcut works on most Android devices. From the Cortana panel on your lock screen you can get all the updates and even ask Cortana anything you want.
Microsoft says that Cortana has 145 million users across its ecosystem, which includes Windows 10, Android, iOS and the Xbox. New hardware devices, like a Cortana-powered Harman Kardon stand-alone speaker will emerge as well.
It’s not clear how many Android users will download Cortana or opt in to enable its lock-screen presence. Cortana and the Google Assistant are arguably redundant. OK Google does work (partly and awkwardly) from from the Android 7 lock-screen today.
However, the lock-screen strategy does differentiate Cortana, at least somewhat, from the current version of the Google Assistant. And its more fully functioning lock-screen capabilities might be regarded by some as a complement or alternative to the Google Assistant for quick information without unlocking their phones.
I haven’t done an extensive side-by-side comparison of Cortana and Google Assistant recently, but to succeed on Android, Cortana will need to develop some true differentiating features. Lock-screen operation is one, but it’s not enough.
On iOS, Cortana’s functionality bar is somewhat lower. While it’s not going to get access to the lock-screen on the Apple device, it can drive adoption by being more competent than Siri at quotidian tasks.
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