Smackdown: Siri vs. Cortana

 Siri vs. Cortana

Last week, Microsoft released Cortana for the iPhone, Microsoft's voice assistant that's similar to Siri. Of course, in order to access Cortana you'll need to open the app—unlike Siri, which is always available via a press of the Home button. So the big question is: Can Cortana match Siri's personality? And of lesser importance is the question: Is Cortana as useful as Siri? Let's see how they compare.

Tell me a joke: Winner — Cortana

I've always liked Siri's personality, so I wanted to test how much personality Cortana has. And what better way to do that than to ask for a joke. Cortana's joke gave me the bigger chuckle.

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Why did the chicken cross the road: Winner — Cortana

Siri's answer was lame. Cortana's not only had the cute image, but it was fun the way she said "Kabawk," making it sound like a squawk. 

Tell me a story: Winner — Cortana

I guess Siri was bored with my request, since she didn't seem to have any interest in telling me a story. But Cortana was eager to satisfy. What really struck me though, was Cortana's expression. As she spoke, she slowed her cadence and used a breathy mysterious tone to heighten the suspense.

Tell me a bedtime story: Winner — Siri

Siri's response is the more clever one here.

Knock knock: Winner — Cortana

Siri almost seems tired of the same old same old, but Cortana responds with vigor. Again, not only was her reply a bit funny, she told the joke with enthusiasm, using a lot of expression in her voice.

What's the weather forecast: Winner — Cortana

The information is similar, but I find Cortana's graphic presentation much more pleasing. In fact, in general I prefer the appearance of Cortana's responses.

How far is Ottumwa, Iowa: Draw

Cortana gave me more detailed information, telling me both how many miles and how long it would take to drive. Siri gave me the distance "as the crow flies." In some respects, that's maybe the better answer, since I didn't specifically ask for driving distance. Again, I prefer Cortana's graphic presentation. Also, I like the way Cortana traced the route on a map, compared to Siri's simply dropping a pin in the middle of Ottumwa.

And the champion is: Cortana

No offense, Siri. You're still the one I love. But don't blame me if I pay Cortana a visit on occasion. She's got the goods.

When I began this smackdown, I assumed Siri would win. I never dreamed Microsoft would come up with such a delightful assistant. Fun aside, though, it remains to be seen how useful Cortana will be. But I'm glad Micrsoft has emulated Apple's approach of giving its virtual assistant a personality.

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.