Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant app inspired by Halo's female A.I. character, is now downloadable for Android -- though not by any official means. The software's Android beta, which is available to Windows Insider Program participants in the U.S. and China, was leaked by one of the testers.
Microsoft responded to the leak saying an official release of Cortana for Android will be distributed in "the next few weeks," according to an email acquired by ZDNet. Previously, Cortana was unique to Windows Phones, but Microsoft is taking it cross-platform with standalone apps for iOS and Android, in addition to natively integrating the feature with Windows 10.
Microsoft knows they don't hold a lion's share of the mobile market, which is why offering Cortana outside of Windows Phone is smart. Plus, by supporting Cortana on Windows, Xbox, Android and iOS, the company has a shot at making Cortana the most popular cross-platform virtual assistant. It'll have to fight for that spot with Google Now, which runs on Android, iOS and Chrome.
Cortana offers the same comprehensive features of Google Now and Siri, like making calls, sending messages, editing the calendar and taking suggestions from the web. But since Microsoft can't tap directly into a third-party OS, there are things Cortana won’t be able to do on iOS or Android, such as toggling system settings, opening apps and responding hands-free when users say "Hey Cortana”.
For now, Cortana's full mobile potential is exclusive to Windows Phone, and as beta users noticed, a Microsoft account is needed to use Cortana on Android. Microsoft is also unveiling a Windows 10 Phone Companion app that will allow users to connect their PCs to Android, iOS and Windows phones “to ensure your key Windows experiences—your photos, your music, your docs – move effortlessly wherever you do.”
You can find the leaked Cortana Android APK here. Be warned, this is an unsupported version. You can also watch a demo of Cortana for Android below.