Reports suggest that Microsoft plans to bring Cortana to Android and iOS, essentially acting as a replacement for Siri and Google Now.

The personal assistant has been running on Windows Phone devices for around a year now, but could it ever really take off on other platforms?

"This kind of technology, which can read and understand email, will play a central role in the next rollout of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame," said Microsoft's Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research.

While the move is certainly not surprising, it is interesting, especially considering the closed nature of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS.

Bringing Cortana to Android makes sense. Android is far more open than iOS, allowing for much better integration of a Cortana app within the Android operating system. Depending on the permissions that users give the app, it could act as a real personal assistant and as a competitor to Google Now.

Google Now is Google's own personal assistant on Android, and it is unlikely to be easily replaced. First of all, Google Now has a certain level of integration in Android, with development that is unlikely to be replicated by Microsoft. Google Now is unique in that it anticipates the user's needs and wants, something that other personal assistants don't really do.

If Cortana can achieve any level of integration with Android, it is unlikely to achieve any at all on iOS. As mentioned, iOS is far more closed than Android, essentially meaning that the service will really only be able to run as an app instead of within the heart of a user's mobile experience.

All hope is not lost for Cortana on Android or iOS, however. One thing that Microsoft does have going for them is that many people use Microsoft email systems. With email being such a big part of communication, Microsoft is likely to leverage this advantage in Cortana.

What this also means is that those who don't use any other Microsoft services are unlikely to find any use for Cortana. In fact, Android users already have a Gmail email address, which is used by Google Now, essentially meaning that users may only find use for Cortana if they have two email addresses.

Could Cortana replace Google Now or Siri? Absolutely not. For users who can put Cortana to use on Android or iOS, it is likely that it will be in addition to using Google Now or Siri rather than replacing them. 

Image: Bhupinder Nayyar | Flickr

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