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Microsoft sets sights on smartphone market

Microsoft sets sights on smartphone market 

On Wednesday, the company unveiled Cortana, an AI assistant that rivals Google Now and Apple’s Siri. Powered by Bing, Cortana can ask the user questions about his or her preferences, then store the information for future use. Though she’ll monitor the user’s behaviour and interests throughout the day, Microsoft says she won’t assume the user is interested in something before first checking in to make sure.

Users can engage with Cortana using either voice or text, and she will respond in kind.

Cortana will soon be released in beta format in the United States, though Microsoft is planning to expand it to the U.K. and China in the second half of 2014 and to other countries in 2015.

In perhaps more significant news, the tech giant has elected to offer its Windows operating system for free to hardware partners. Makers of tablets and smartphones with screens smaller than nine inches will now be able to offer the Windows OS to the consumer market without having to pay the $5 to $15 fee per device that Microsoft used to charge for use of its software.

A license fee will still apply for business devices, however.

Critics have suggested that this decision comes in response to Android’s dominance in the smartphone market in 2013. According to a report from Gartner, the Windows OS held only three per cent of the smartphone market last year, and just two per cent of the tablet market. Google does not charge smartphone makers a fee to install the Android OS on their devices.

“The news today shines a light on continued Windows innovation in ways that benefit our customers, partners and developers alike. Our commitment is to make Windows more personal and accessible to individuals, and to ensure a vibrant ecosystem through closer collaboration with our industry partners,” said Terry Myerson, EVP, OS Group, Microsoft.

For more information on these announcements, please visit the Microsoft press room.

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