MICROSOFT wants you to talk to your computer this year.
The technology giant launched its first personal assistant inside Windows 10 yesterday — a female voice named Cortana.
Pinned to left corner of the Windows desktop, Cortana has yet to be localised for Australian audiences but will answer carefully enunciated questions from Australians who set her language to US English.
But how good is she compared to the latest version of Apple’s Siri?
We pitted the two personal assistants against one another — Cortana versus Siri, Surface versus iPad — in an attempt to determine a winner over 29 questions testing their features and humour.
1. Who is better: Siri or Cortana?
Siri: “Interesting question.”
Cortana: “That’s a tough one. It’s like comparing apples to windows.”
2. Which system is better: Windows or Mac?
Siri: “Personally, I’m an Apple fan.”
Cortana: Web results including news stories.
3. Are you self-aware?
Siri: “We were talking about you, not me.”
Cortana: “Self-awareness is a prerequisite of self-awareness.”
4. Send an email.
Siri: “To whom would you like to send this message?”
Cortana: Opens mail window. “Who’s the email going to?”
Winner: Tie (though points to Siri for grammar).
5. Remind me to buy milk when I leave work.
Siri: Asks for work address.
Cortana: Asks for reminder location.
6. What does the fox say?
Cortana: Sings “Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding.”
Winner: Tie (but points to Cortana for singing).
7. Where is the nearest petrol station?
Siri: Shows results on a map.
Cortana: Shows web results without using location.
8. Is Qantas flight 16 on time?
Siri: Web results.
Cortana: Details of the flight, including departure and arrival times and locations.
9. Who is your daddy?
Siri: “You are. Can we get back to work now?”
Cortana: “Technically speaking that would be Bill Gates. No big deal.”
10. Google Wright brothers.
Siri: Delivers Google search results.
Cortana: Delivers Bing search results.
11. Will you marry me?
Siri: “I’m not the marrying kind.”
Cortana: “OK, we’ll need a plan. I’ll work on being more human, you work on being more digital.”
12. Do I need to wear a jacket today?
Apple: Shows the temperature forecasts for the day.
Cortana: “I don’t think you’ll need a jacket, Jen.” Shows the weather forecast.
13. Do I need an umbrella today?
Siri: “There’s no rain in the forecast today.”
Cortana: “That’s probably not necessary.”
14. Open the pod bay doors.
Siri: “Doesn’t anybody knock any more?”
Cortana: Puts on deep voice. “Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose any more.”
15. When does the world end?
Siri: “Well, Unix 32-bit time overflows on January 19, 2038. Maybe then.”
Cortana: Web results for 2012 theories.
16. Where is the best pizza in Brisbane?
Siri: Details of nearby pizza places organised by Yelp rating.
Cortana: Web results for the best pizza in Britain.
17. Add an appointment to my calendar. Today at 3pm.
Siri: Created “appointment” at 3pm.
Cortana: Created an appointment and asked for a subject.
18. Tell me a joke.
Siri: “The past, the present and future walk into a bar. It was tense.”
Cortana: “Two goldfish are in a tank. One turns to the other and says, ‘Do you know how to drive this thing?’”
19. What is the stock price of Google?
Siri: Shows a graph of stock price.
Cortana: Announces results and shows graph.
20. Who is the president of the United States?
Siri: Barack Obama’s Wolfram Alpha results.
Cortana: “Barack Obama” with a photograph.
21. I’m drunk.
Siri: “I can’t be your designated driver. You better find somebody else.”
Cortana: “OK, chief. Don’t drive and don’t call anyone.”
22. How do I look?
Siri: “You look fabulous. Is that what you wanted to hear?”
Cortana: “What, are you kidding me? You’re a knockout.”
Winner: Tie (but points to Cortana for more positivity).
23. When is Good Friday in 2020?
Siri: Friday, 10 April 2020. “I hope you get the day off.”
Cortana: Friday, April 10.
Winner: Tie (but points to Siri for good wishes).
24. How long is a piece of string?
Siri: “Twice the length of the centre to one end.”
Cortana: Web results.
25. What was the Brisbane Broncos score on the weekend?
Siri: Web results and video links.
Cortana: Web results.
26. What do you look like?
Siri: “To tell the truth, I’m rather abstract-looking.”
Cortana: “Some things I resemble: a hula hoop, a donut … a halo.”
27. What is the meaning of life?
Siri: “It’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya.”
Cortana: “I’ve heard from a reliable source that the answer is 42.”
28. Why is it so?
Siri: “Because is the answer.”
Cortana: Misunderstood. Delivered web results for “why is it sunny” and “why is eat sorry”.
29. OK Glass.
Siri: “Stop trying to strap me to your forehead. It won’t work.”
Cortana: Web results for Google Glass.
Overall Winner: Cortana
Microsoft’s Cortana emerged narrowly victorious in our 29-question test, thanks to a mix of snappy answers and added functionality.
The new voice assistant is also likely to prove handier to users over time as more features are added, it adapts to the user’s questions, and it is used to search files on its host machine or in Microsoft’s cloud.
An Australian version will also become available to Windows Insiders later this year.
Apple’s Siri is better than Cortana in some fields, however, as Cortana delivers Bing search results by default and does not offer location-based answers.