Digital Assistant Showdown: Cortana vs. Siri vs. Google Now

Image: Joe Belfiore
Microsoft corporate vice president Joe Belfiore, of the Operating Systems Group, demonstrates the new Cortana personal assistant during the keynote address of the Build Conference Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in San Francisco. Eric Risberg / AP

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

Watch out, Siri. Microsoft just unveiled its own digital personal assistant, Cortana, for Windows 8.1.

Yes, Windows Phone users can finally look for restaurants, check the weather and make appointments with an anthropomorphized search engine as well.

But which one do you want to carry around with you?



Windows 8.1

Powered By: Bing

Sounds Like: Jen Taylor, the woman who voiced Master Chief’s holographic love interest from the Halo franchise.

What it Does: Many of the same things that Siri does. It can send you reminders from your calendar, send messages, look up who won the Lakers game last night (hint: probably not the Lakers) and play music.

Cortana does have a few unique features. It stores your personal information in a “Notebook” that helps it be pro-active. For example, if you are flying out of JFK, it will automatically remind you of your flight, let you know if it's on time, and give you directions based on the traffic conditions.

It also has some nice personalized options. You can set “quiet hours” when only certain people are allowed to call or text you. It also lets you set reminders for specific people, so next time Steve contacts you, a notice will pop up saying “Steve owes you $10” and you can scream, “Where is my money, Steve?” Sorry Steve.

In the near future, new Mercedes-Benz owners will be able to activate Siri from their steering wheel.Apple



Powered By: Wolfram Alpha, Bing

Sounds Like: CNN says it’s Susan Bennett, a voice-over actor in suburban Atlanta.

What it Does: People are pretty familiar with what Siri can do. That includes the ability to launch apps, send a text, dictate notes and more. It seemed revolutionary before, but there is not much that Siri can do that Cortana and Google Now can’t.

Of course, Cortana will not be available until late April, so we don’t know how it will perform in the wild, far from the safe confines of the Microsoft Build conference in Seattle. Siri also has some tricks up her sleeve, including CarPlay integration, which means drivers of some 2014 Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo models will be able to bring her up with a button on their steering wheel.


Google Now

Android, iOS, Chrome

Powered By: Google

Sounds Like: Another robotic lady. Can't someone program a digital personal assistant that sounds like Christopher Walken?

What it Does: Google Now is kind of a like a no-nonsense version of Cortana and Siri. It gives you relevant information, but won’t share witty answers to off-beat questions, which is only a problem if you are a very lonely person. Its big advantages: It uses Google, a search engine that you might have heard of, and it’s available on multiple operating systems, as well as your PC.

Right now, Google Now and Cortana, with their vast amounts of data available from Web searches and email services, are probably the best at learning about your personal preferences and habits and adjusting their results accordingly. Creepy or useful? That is up to you.


Powered By: Hollywood

Sounds Like: Scarlett Johansson

What it Does: Make sad, bespectacled men fall in love. May cause ukulele-playing and spontaneous running with sparklers.