Microsoft plans to release a version of its popular digital assistant, Cortana, for the Android platform, and a copy of the software already leaked online.
While Microsoft didn't offer an exact launch date for when Cortana would become available for Android, it did announce a beta program so a limited number of users in the U.S. and China can test the software before it's ready for public release. Cortana has now made its way online as an .APK file, which suggests that it's a leak from the beta program.
The actual .APK file means that any Android user can install Cortana simply by turning off the security setting related to sideloading apps. The most likely scenario is that a beta tester in the U.S. or China uploaded the Cortana .APK so others could try it out even if they didn't sign up for the beta program.
Making Cortana available for Android is an important step for Microsoft, as it will help widen its reach to more consumers. Many use Windows on their PC, but when it comes to their mobile devices most consumers prefer either Android or iOS. Windows 10 for PC will start rolling out at the end of this month and will bring Cortana for Desktop, among other things, and users will want to integrate it with their phone. Without versions of Cortana for Android and iOS, non-Windows Phone users would not be able to do so.
Microsoft's version of Cortana for Android will not offer all of the features available on Windows Phone, but it will nonetheless bring several options. Users will be able to check out nearby places to have a drink or a bite to eat, bring up events on their calendar, ask questions, add reminders, see news, sports or weather information, and others such.
Features such as saying "Hey Cortana" to wake "her" up will not work, however, as the Windows Phone platform will have the exclusive on that.
The beta version of Cortana for Android is now unofficially available to any and all interested Android users, leaking on SuomiMobiili. From there, the beta was also re-uploaded to APKMirror and other such repositories. The only requirement seems to be Android 4.4 KitKat or later.
The official beta version of Cortana for Android, meanwhile, should available publicly in the coming weeks. Interested users in the U.S. can take this survey for the chance to be among the first testers before the public beta release. Microsoft says it will be sending download links to select users via email.