Meet Cortana, the new voice of Microsoft

Will Siri be able to compete?

Whether it’s Bing (search), Surface (tablet) or Zune (discontinued music player), Microsoft’s me-too consumer products are usually far less cool than the ones they ape.

However, the software giant could finally be on to something as it goes head-to-head with Apple’s digital assistant, Siri. Tech website Zdnet says Microsoft is planning its own virtual assistant technology called Cortana that will be more than just a voice-recognition app, but part of a “major makeover” of future versions of Windows and Xbox One operating systems.

The name will be familiar to video game fans. It belongs to the hologram-like, artificially intelligent female character in the wildly popular Halo game series, and represents a rare effort by Microsoft to tap its much hipper Xbox brand to give its other products a badly-needed lift. And if Cortana works out as planned, it could convince a few non-gamers to pick up a new Xbox One console, too.

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