There were rumbles and discussions about personal assistant Cortana branching out to other platforms. Regardless of where some very vocal Windows Phone faithful stand, Microsoft is preparing themselves for what they feel is the next best step for the company. Publicly there hasn’t been a confirmation or a time frame scheduled, but the business acumen behind the move seems evident.
Perhaps in effort to assuage a perceived betrayal by the company, Bill Gates has stepped in with a mediated solution. Gates and a small team within Microsoft are developing a project that could help Microsoft test the waters of porting a personal assistant while keeping Cortana a Windows only (for now) feature. During an AMA a few months ago, Gates glossed over his work on a personal agent app that he and a small team were in the midst of developing. Back in Feb of this year, some information leaked, by Brad Sams of Neowin on Twitter. The leaks showed the proposed functionality of Office Now (internally called Work Assistant). With that information, the web was able to piece together what ‘Work Assistant’ would and could do.
The Office-focused personal assistant was intended to be a helper app that would enable Cortana and Bing to pull work-specific information and present it in contextual and personal ways for users. Items like file names, locations and types could all be accessed by use of natural-language searches. Similar to how users interact with Cortana, using ‘Work Assistant’ could result in users voicing, “Find PowerPoint presentation title: Next Months Projections, and send to Jonathan.” The Work Assistant will also offer up an intuitive view for users who choose to interact with the assistant without speech. Users will be able to see insights about their schedules or a list of events in a Flipboard-card like style.
According to Sams, who has had time with Office Now tutorials, the viewable cards include:
- At-a-glance summary of your day first thing in the morning directly from your lock screen or notification center.
- Commute card - Tells you what traffic looks like and how long your commute will take.
- Highlights card - Presents insights about your day, like how much time you'll spend in events, when your first event starts and when your last event ends.
- Missed call card -Shows any missed calls and provides a quick action to return the call.
- In-depth people insights - via a deep link into the Revolve app.
- Natural language event creation -Allows you to create events like you would say it.
- Email to yourself card - Displays any email that you send to yourself.
- Emails directly to you - Shows email that is sent directly to you from others.
According to Sams, Office Now will also have “deep link” ties into recently released Revolve app for Windows Phone. Much like the Revolve app, Office Now is reported to be an iOS, Android and Windows affair. As mentioned earlier, Microsoft has made mention of Cortana being ported, but it looks like Office Now will be the tent pole for personal assistants on other platforms. With its office-centric functionality, Microsoft can deliver on their productivity promise and expand their Office suite functionality on other platforms while also testing the waters for Cortana’s arrival. Hopefully, Microsoft will continue with its merging of properties and users will find this app rolled into a single Cortana app eventually.