Microsoft: 'Cortana is competent, caring, confident and loyal'

The best new feature in Windows Phone 8.1 is the introduction of the Cortana digital assistant. In a recent feature on the Microsoft Jobs blog, the person who lead the team behind Cortana's creation, Susan Hendrich, offered some more information on how it was developed.

Hendrich's official title is Principal Program Manager Lead, Windows Phone, The blog post quotes her as saying that to create Cortana's personality, the team started by interviewing the personal assistants of celebrities to find out how they were successful in their jobs. Then the team discussed the types of attributes that Windows Phone device owners wanted in a personal assistant.

From those discussions and interviews, a brief was created that served as the basis for the Cortana team to follow. It stated how the digital assistant would respond to a question, what tasks it would do and how she would offer up reminders to Windows Phone owners.

Hendrich also said:

Cortana is competent, caring, confident and loyal. She’s always prepared to help, but not bossy. She’s eager to learn. When she’s chatting, she can be outright funny, peppering her answers with banter or even a sparky comeback. She assumes friendly familiarity with you, but her job is to be your personal assistant.

The rest of the blog entry concentrates on Hendrich herself. At one point, she decided she wanted to help create software. So she memorized "Project Manager for Dummies" before interviewing and getting a job a Lycos. She admits, "I’m a terrible developer, but being a PM is a great fit." Hendrich joined Microsoft in 2006 and the blog has some advice from her on how anyone can get a gig working at the company.

Source: Microsoft | Image via Microsoft

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I have to say I updated to 8.1 yesterday and I have already been using Cortana regularly and it feels natural and its great to know its only going to get better with time :) also been having fun switching out the live tile background it gives some great customization options.

Waiting for the day she knows i'm a few miles from home so she boils the Jug, turns on the lights, and fluffs my Slippers.

Lord Method Man said,
No, Cortana is the name of software. It has no emotions, is neither competent, caring, confident nor loyal; and is not a 'she.'

So, this is why robot kind rises up against us?

Lord Method Man said,
No, Cortana is the name of software. It has no emotions, is neither competent, caring, confident nor loyal; and is not a 'she.'
You're no fun.

I never thought I'd be using this two features as much as I'm using it right now: Cortana and the swipe keyboard. Microsoft did a great job. It's so much easier to long-press the search key and tell Cortana to play Audioslave than to go browse for it in the music app. Cortana is fun and useful despite being only a beta. The swipe keyboard? Simply brilliant.

"I'm a terrible developer, but being a PM is a great fit."

Well that must explain MS brain drain because there's some management in MS who hasn't typed a single line of code! That's how awful products like Windows 8 are created. And Cortana is just a gimmicky feature. MS should spend time actually delivering features that people want and are asking for like a WP file manager and should stop devoting dev resources on features like Cortana and Kid's Corner. I'm pretty sure that no one outside of MS asked for Kid's Corner. Look at what people are asking for in the WP User Voice: http://windowsphone.uservoice....ure-suggestions/filters/top
The top feature that everyone wants is a FILE MANAGER!!!! For MS to ignore the users wishes is silly and needs to stop or else the competition will leave WP collecting dust.

LOL... dude, take a chill pill... This is a DEV preview not a CONSUMER preview... half that stuff is all coming or will come soon via app updates. And to say that Cortana is a gimmick shows you know nothing about it. Go switch to something else if you're going to be angry over a phone. That's not healthy.

i'm a software developer and have no issue with her not having written a line of code. you don't need to be a programmer to have great ideas to implement in software.

cortana is far beyond 'gimmicky' -- i'm using it way more than I thought. incredibly useful.

also, kids corner is awesome. just because you don't have a kid doesn't mean us with them don't love it and appreciate it.

WinMetro said,
"I'm a terrible developer, but being a PM is a great fit."

Well that must explain MS brain drain because there's some management in MS who hasn't typed a single line of code! That's how awful products like Windows 8 are created. And Cortana is just a gimmicky feature. MS should spend time actually delivering features that people want and are asking for like a WP file manager and should stop devoting dev resources on features like Cortana and Kid's Corner. I'm pretty sure that no one outside of MS asked for Kid's Corner. Look at what people are asking for in the WP User Voice: http://windowsphone.uservoice....ure-suggestions/filters/top
The top feature that everyone wants is a FILE MANAGER!!!! For MS to ignore the users wishes is silly and needs to stop or else the competition will leave WP collecting dust.

Fortunately other people live outside of your seemingly closed bubble, do you really think that the list of wanted features voted for by techy types constitutes ' the vast majority'?

Most people, as in the majority of all people don't go on tech sites, they just use their devices around their lives and I seriously think that that same majority couldn't give a rats ass about a file manager, that people with kids love kids corner 'tip: Loads of people have kids', that they haven't even users cortana yet as they aren't developers, that they do like windows 8(the shock) because it actually makes the simpler things they do on computers easier.

But no, obviously you are the majority and others ' the actual majority' are all wrong because they didn't vote on a tech feedback site.

That's currently in progress. Her voice is still being recorded, so hopefully she'll sound similar to how she did in the Halo series in future updates.

Aren't *some* of the canned responses already Jen Taylor? At least that's what i've read, although who knows if that's true or not.

Certainly some responses sound far more natural than others.

Not sure if this information is public, but a friend working at MS told me they designed the EN-US version of Cortana to speak to you as if she was your sister : same language, same friendliness.

However, Cortana will have a different personality in its EN-GB version: she will talk to you as if she was your butler.

didn't hear anything about the other regions though.

link8506 said,
Not sure if this information is public, but a friend working at MS told me they designed the EN-US version of Cortana to speak to you as if she was your sister : same language, same friendliness.

However, Cortana will have a different personality in its EN-GB version: she will talk to you as if she was your butler.

didn't hear anything about the other regions though.

Arabic version will speak to you as one of your many wives.

I asked Cortana what the Yankees score was, and she said "they are destroying the cubs 3-0" Made me so happy. I find myself thanking her....it.... after she was particularly helpful. I creep myself out, don't judge me.

Cortana and Siri are the first step toward persocoms (Google the anime "Chobits"). All we need is sufficient advancement in robotics!

techbeck said,
Cool. But as long as I get the answers I want, don't really care how personable the software is.
I bet you'd be a fantastic boss.


I have been a boss before. There are appropriate times to joke around and have a good time but if I need to get work done, then that is a different matter. I want answers and not jokes. Why I said that I don't care how personable the software is as long as I get good answers/results.

I manged 6 people in an IT department for 6+ years. We got along great and also got or work done. If work didnt get done because of to much goofing around, the manager/boss always hears about it and it reflects badly on everyone. For me, fun when it comes to work and info I need comes second.

so not really sure what your comment was about...just an empty reply apparently.

Edited by techbeck, Apr 17 2014, 8:29pm :

Cortana gets the job done and puts a smile on your face. I think that was his point. You can have both. Cortana's personality doesnt diminish your productivity. In fact humor (to a certain limit) increases productivity.

And the 'personalization' of Cortana doesnt just mean her personality it also means she is fine tuned to be the best possible assistent for you. So that certainly will help you be productive even if you havent smiled in years.

Ronnet said,
Cortana gets the job done and puts a smile on your face. I think that was his point. You can have both. Cortana's personality doesnt diminish your productivity. In fact humor (to a certain limit) increases productivity.

Glad someone gets it. The funny stuff is great as long as it doesnt take away from how something works.

sinetheo said,
Sadly he would ... for the employer that is.

Sadly? Work is just that, work. And when you manage a group, you are not only responsibile for your work but for whoever you manage as well. Getting the work done is top priority. We joked around during the day and went out as a group for lunch and talked about other non work related things. But they knew I meant business if something didnt get done.

techbeck said,

Sadly? Work is just that, work. And when you manage a group, you are not only responsibile for your work but for whoever you manage as well. Getting the work done is top priority. We joked around during the day and went out as a group for lunch and talked about other non work related things. But they knew I meant business if something didnt get done.

Sounds like the right kind of manager to me. However people (including me) were responding to your innitial comment. Which was a bit harsh and not in line with the comments that followed.

Ronnet said,

Sounds like the right kind of manager to me. However people (including me) were responding to your innitial comment. Which was a bit harsh and not in line with the comments that followed.

Let's just say, he is the Slave Driver type of manager.

Ronnet said,

Sounds like the right kind of manager to me. However people (including me) were responding to your innitial comment. Which was a bit harsh and not in line with the comments that followed.

Harsh? Saying that I dont care about these features as long as the product works is harsh? Either people have a different definition of harsh, or need to look up the meaning of the word. Either that, or they were upset that I didnt care for the fluffy features of a part of WP.

techbeck said,

Harsh? Saying that I dont care about these features as long as the product works is harsh? Either people have a different definition of harsh, or need to look up the meaning of the word. Either that, or they were upset that I didnt care for the fluffy features of a part of WP.

Look purely at the comment, not in context of your intend. Later on you better explain your position. But the innitial comment was obviously considered negatively. With 'harsh' I actually tried to mellow it down a bit. Just look at the previous comment where you are being compared to a slave driver.

I think it's awesome that they interviewed real personal assistants to figure out how to make an effective digital assistant.

Also awesome that Susan Hendrich rides!