Microsoft Opens Cortana To 3rd Party Developers

Cortana AH 2

Cortana was Microsoft’s response to Apple’s Siri and Google’s personal assistant during the Windows 8.1 era, and the software was eventually integrated into Windows 10 and made available on other platforms including Android and iOS. Up until now Cortana has been a closed system controlled only by Microsoft, but things are about to change, as Microsoft has announced that it will bring Cortana to more devices, allowing third party app and hardware developers to integrate Cortana with their products.

“We’re at the beginning of a technological revolution in artificial intelligence” claims Microsoft in a recent blog post, and as part of the revolution the company intends to make Cortana available on more devices and platforms, allowing more users to take advantage of the personal assistant’s capabilities. For software developers, Microsoft has prepared the Cortana Skills Kit preview, which is a set of tools that allow app developers to integrate Cortana into their applications, enriching the user experience with voice commands. The Cortana Skills Kit preview is currently available behind closed doors to only a handful of partners, including Knowmail, Capital One, Expedia, and TalkLocal. And Microsoft is looking to broaden the platform’s availability in February 2017.

The second part of the official announcement targets hardware manufacturers, and revolves around the Cortana Devices SDK (Software Development Kit) which, for now, and not unlike the Cortana Skills Kit preview, is available only in private preview mode. Cortana Devices SDK is the next step in Microsoft’s push towards making Cortana available on IoT (Internet of Things) devices, and the company adds that the SDK “is designed for diversity” to support a variety of platforms including Windows IoT, Android and Linux. Microsoft also announced that they are working with hardware developers and partners across multiple industries and hardware categories, including connected cars. Additionally, Harman Kardon (now owned by Samsung Electronics) is an “early device partner” of Microsoft for the Cortana Devices SDK platform, and the company has already revealed a new voice-activated speaker powered by Cortana in a short presentation video on YouTube (below). The speaker will be released sometime in 2017, and availability for the Cortana Devices SDK will also expand next year.