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Microsoft green-lights Cortana on rivals iOS and Android

Gregg Keizer | May 27, 2015
Strategy is mixture of pragmatism and promotion, says analyst.

Phone Companion will walk Android and iOS device owners through the steps of acquiring apps such as Cortana, Office, OneDrive OneNote, Outlook and Skype, and if available, set up data synchronization between Windows 10 and non-Windows smartphones or tablets. Photos taken on an iPhone, for example, will sync with the Photos app on Windows 10, while music stored on OneDrive will be playable on an Android or iOS device.

"Phone Companion ... will help you connect your Windows PC to whatever phone you own -- whether it's a Windows phone, Android phone, or iPhone," promised Belfiore.

Rubin and Dawson agreed that the root of Microsoft's strategy with Cortana on alternate mobile platforms -- as it has been with other apps it has crafted for Android and iOS -- was a services push. "It's services," said Rubin. "Nadella has said on many occasions that mobile is the key client opportunity going forward. Notice that they're not bringing Cortana to the Mac, but only to mobile. This is all part of the larger initiative to bring key Microsoft technologies to Android and iOS."

"This is a play about services rather than a devices or OS play," echoed Dawson. "This reinforces the value of these services."

Moorhead, however, countered with a different take. "I see this as about the attractiveness of Windows 10 and the relevance of their platform," Moorhead said. "It's an 'embrace and extend' strategy, something Microsoft is famous for. If Google and Apple want to be insular, we're going to embrace it, embrace our experience on all devices."

Calling that angle "brilliant," Moorhead added that the more Microsoft offers to non-Windows mobile devices, the better Windows 10 will look. "Microsoft needs to make the next version of Windows a great central point regardless of what they're doing in mobility," he said. "Only a company like Microsoft, with their size, could pull this off, with a cloud competency, competencies in iOS and Android."

Belfiore did not set specific release dates for either the Android or iOS Cortana apps, but said that Phone Companion would be bundled with a Windows 10 preview build expected to go public "in a few weeks."

Windows 10 is to launch this summer.


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