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Microsoft Cortana May Help Out on Office Tasks Based on New Leaks
Mobile Apps Feature
February 09, 2015

Microsoft Cortana May Help Out on Office Tasks Based on New Leaks

By Steve Anderson
Contributing TMCnet Writer

While in the Halo universe, Cortana was often a big help to Master Chief in trying to accomplish his various tasks, a new report suggests that the real-world version, Microsoft Cortana, might be a big help to regular folks out to accomplish tasks as well. The report in question suggests a Cortana-powered app may be afoot for Windows Phone that will offer up a kind of central clearinghouse for material produced via Microsoft (News - Alert) Office.

The app in question has been reportedly dubbed “Work Assistant,” and has been published on the Windows Phone Store, but hasn't been made available for download at last report. One Italian blog, however, was reportedly quick on the draw, sufficiently so that it could lay hands on a copy, and has even brought some screenshots forward showing the app up and running. The blog in question suggests that the system uses basic voice commands for document retrieval and manipulation, but can also engage in some more complex commands, like sending a file to a certain person. Work Assistant, at last report, will respond to the voice commands that start with “Office,” much in the way that “Hey Siri” and “OK Google (News - Alert)” worked.

Reports suggest that the Italian blog's version of Work Assistant is a private beta version that was available only to internal testers at Microsoft, so the version of Work Assistant that actually makes it to our devices may offer completely different options by the end. However, reports suggest that the ultimate goal is to bring this tool to every Microsoft tool around, ranging from phones and tablets to even desktop PC systems. Indeed, there are even plans to expand it outward to include both Android and iOS platforms as well, and some reports suggest that Microsoft founder Bill Gates (News - Alert) has had a hand in the development of the system himself. A recent report taken from a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session had Gates note: “One project I am working on with Microsoft is the Personal Agent, which will remember everything and help you go back and find things and help you pick what things to pay attention to. The idea that you have to find applications and pick them and they each are trying to tell you what is new is just not the efficient model - the agent will help solve this. It will work across all your devices.”

From the look of it, this is still early-stage stuff, but early-stage stuff that's likely to grow into something very useful. With the mobile workforce becoming an ever-increasing part of things, being able to access documents and the like remotely is very important, and having a tool like Work Assistant on hand could prove a particularly powerful tool for the mobile user who needs access to such documents. But then, the use of voice controls has proven to be something of a harsh mistress of late, particularly after the revelations around Samsung smart TV systems and just what those tools are paying attention to. It's bad enough that the smart TV may be overhearing casual conversations at home, but would Work Assistant be overhearing work-related conversations, possibly full of proprietary information? That's a distressing thought, and hopefully, one that will be addressed before long.

Still, Microsoft may have a winner with Work Assistant, helping to bring together the various portions of a computing environment—mobile and stationary alike—and helping to keep users in the Microsoft camp as well.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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