Microsoft is set to debut its digital assistant Cortana as a standalone app on iOS and Android devices, according to a new report.

Microsoft's digital assistant known as Cortana has been a key and exclusive feature of its Windows Phone OS and a heavily advertised reason to choose the Microsoft Windows Phone OS over its more popular competitors, iOS and Android. A new report claims that Microsoft is planning on bringing an advanced version of Cortana to iOS and Android devices.

An updated version of Cortana is now being developed at Microsoft in a project dubbed "Einstein". Microsoft touts Cortana as more advanced than Apple's competing digital assistant software Siri in that Cortana can actually anticipate user requests, analyze data, and combine information in a way that can proactively help users. Siri, on the other hand, is more limited in that it merely responds to requests originally initiated by iPhone owners, while Google Now uses a card based system that uses Google's search technology to display relevant information.

Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research who is working on project Einstien explained, "This kind of technology, which can read and understand email, will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame". Cortana will debut on Microsoft desktop and laptop computers with the arrival of Windows 10 this autumn.

The move to other OS platforms will occur later, although Microsoft has not officially announced the strategy or given a time frame. It appears Microsoft is following Google's strategy of making its services and software available on as many operating systems and devices as possible, whereas Apple maintains its long running strategy of keeping its software and apps exclusive only to Apple products.

The move could potentially hurt Windows Phone, which is already struggling to gain market share against the two giants, iOS and Android.  Speculation is that Microsoft will market Cortana as working better on Windows Phone in order to maintain the enticement to use its operating system over the others that Cortana will eventually run on.

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