Cortana to offer tech support and business data answers in Windows 10

In Windows 10, Microsoft is teaching Cortana to assist users in better ways. This week, during the company's Ignite conference in Chicago, Microsoft's Joe Belfiore showed off how Cortana is evolving to help users on a business environment to be more productive and assist regular users with technical support.

Note: To show the new capabilities, Microsoft used two versions of Windows 10: build 10072 and 10107.

For example, on Windows 10 build 10072, Microsoft's Belfiore asked: "Hey Cortana: Show me PowerPoint slides for the charity auction". And thanks to the indexing service built-in the client, Cortana was able to perform a search for files locally, and those files stored on OneDrive to deliver the correct results – all in one unified UI.

Belfiore also pointed out that Microsoft is noting a trend of users asking Cortana a number of technical support questions about how to use their PCs. As a result, the software giant is now teaching Cortana how to help people instructing them how to use their Windows 10 computers.

During the demo, Belfiore asked: "Hey Cortana: How do I project my screen?" and Cortana was smart enough to understand the context of the question and answer accordingly. You can see this demoed in the image below.

Microsoft also noted that the new improvement is a work in progress and what you see today does not reflect the final product, as more tweaks will be introduced by the time Windows 10 launches later this year.

Next up, using Windows 10 build 10107, which isn't a build available to Windows Insiders, Microsoft showed off a newer version of Cortana. This version of Cortana had new UI elements, and a mini version of the assistant, that can connect to other applications to provide answers to specific business data.

If you missed it, you could learn more about the new UI for Cortana and various other changes in my previous write-up here.

Connecting Cortana to Microsoft cloud services, Power BI, Belfiore demonstrated how anyone connected to Azure Active Directory can have access to Power BI data enabling Cortana to answer questions to specific business data.

In the demo, Belfiore asked: "Hey Cortana: What is the number of people at Ignite by country?" and "Hey Cortana: Show me the average number of PCs our attendee companies have, by industry". Both questions were immediately answered correctly by Cortana in her canvas using a rich and easy to read graph to represent the data.

As you can see, Cortana not only can understand natural spoken language, but also she can correctly understand and answer long and complicated questions – just like a personal assistant would.

It's very noticeable how Microsoft is improving the digital assistant inside Windows 10. In the previews that the software company demonstrated, Cortana seemed more complete and a lot snappier when invoking the "Hey Cortana" command than what we have seen in current public previews.

Didn't have the chance to watch the Microsoft's Ignite conference? You can watch the entire video and demos on Channel9 (Note: Channel 9 videos cannot be seen in our app).

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

45 Comments
  • So does Cortana send file data back to msft central, whilst answering a question? All the brain power is server side, like siri, right? Can't imagine Enterprise customers signing up for that...
  • That's correct
  • Searches about file data are done locally, searches for object graph data (like the Ignite question above) are done on Microsoft's servers. Corporate data does not leave the location its stored.
  • If corporate data doesn't leave local servers how can Cortana parse the data efficiently, or fast. Are msft of loading Cortana's core code into local machines?
  • I imagine Microsoft's servers are only doing the speech recognition, parsing the spoken language for the user. After all, that's the most processor intensive part of voice recognition and control. Once parsed correctly, I imagine (Purely conjecture based on my own observations, mind you) Microsoft's servers just ship the correctly parsed language back to the device, and the device carries out action from there. After all, once the language is parsed correctly, it's just mere instructions, which the device software can work with. After all, I highly doubt you phone is sending off data about your entire music collection when you request a playlist, a song skip, etc. Nor is it indexing a list of every app command ever when you say, "Windows Central, show me the news." Indeed, based on how I see it, Microsoft's servers are only used to figure out what the user is saying (Because speech recognition is difficult, so leveraging the power of the cloud is wise), but once that's done, the device has the instructions and can work with them as the software allows (Have you noticed how many written Cortana queries work offline when speech ones don't? That's because no speech needs to be recognized, the instructions are already there). With this in mind, I don't think Microsoft's servers will be directly handling enterprise data. They'll merely be handling the voice-requests for the data, at which point a client's device (Thanks to the magic of software) will go a fetch the requested data from the proper sources. Again, purely my own observations, I could be completely wrong, but this is how I understand Cortana's function as of now.
  • Thanks for the response. I was actually under the impression Cortana had far greater access to data, and records would be kept, server side, as courtesans "learns" - she's more than speech recognition... I'll have to look more into this. Again, thanks for taking the time!!!
  • Aparently microsoft snoops around in your cortana conversations.
  • Well that's how I understand it. They have to, in order to make out work and be predictive. Hmmm. Need more information.
  • Gotta read those privacy agreements before you hit 'accept'
  • Cortana is really evolving really well. The only thing I'm dubious about is whether that email was really sent back in January ;-) or if it was just a video / simulation. There were some really cool features In the message dictation that we don't have on phone yet. Can't wait for some new features over the next few builds.
  • Windows 10 is like Windows 8 took a viagara, actually dozens of viagara (mixed with Cialis) pills. It will be huge when it "launches" but how long will it last?
  • I hope and beg for a very long time. This will be a big momentum for MSFT  
  • Yep, they whipping out a BIG one here
  • That applies to every darn operating system out there as well. The base of a new OS is its prior OS. That's pretty much how 'updating' works.
  • Cortana is doing so much things...Except expanding in more regions (That's what matters)
    Lo digo por parte de los países latinoamericanos!
  • I agree 100%. Looking forward to Cortana expanding to more regions like South East Asia (Cough..India..Cough) & more. And no more half baked features please!
  • I hope it's possible to use Cortana in a not supported country without changing the region settings. I understand English, so why not :)
  • That's not sounds like a great experience...I want Cortana speaking in my language (Español de Latinoamérica). If not, what's the point?
  • Usted señor, esta en lo cierto; por mas que he querido usar Cortana en mi teléfono, el cambiar de idioma y región no funcionan para mi en realidad, ya va mas de un año desde que Cortana existe y lamentablemente, dudo mucho verla en mi teléfono con WP8.1, y dudo que la vea tampoco en cuanto salga W10 for Phones
  • Y lamentablemente es algo que Microsoft no ha mejorado en absoluto. Ofrecer servicios fuera de Estados Unidos no ha sido ninguna novedad hasta ahorita, si Cortana que es la cereza del pastel de Windows 10 no ha aparecido ni siquiera en fase alfa o beta en mas países, imagínense con otros servicios como Bing Rewards. Insisto, si Microsoft no cambia esa perspectiva y no deja de pensar solo en Estados Unidos, jamás va a despegar y no superará ni a Apple ni Android.
  • Asi es, asi es. Espero que con Windows 10 estas cosas se normalicen en todo el mundo, de lo contrario, quizá en EU tengan un enorme boom, pero fuera de ahi, lo dudo mucho
  • It would be cool if Cortana could understand and respond in all supported languages regardless of region settings. (After lots more languages are supported.)
  • All I keep hearing is " I'm sorry, I didn't get that."
  • I wondering cortana will be able to tell me if I have incoming text and emails on the desktop from my phone
  • The Action Center supposedly would take care of that as it's suppose to sync across all devices.  
  • All this magic and it still needs to know my location to search for stuff. Go figure
  • Data data data! Removed region from Australia to Zimbabwe, by the time IT arrives there I may use it.....
  • Cortana, universal apps, continuum, playing Xbox games on the windows mobile devices, and interactive live tiles are the things that could be the unique thing about windows mobile
  • Why couldn't cortana integrate with Microsoft's new Q&A site and or Microsoft Answers
  • I wonder how difficult is to release Cortana to all languages and get data from the insiders. You ask something to Cortana, then Cortana ask YOU what you asked. You write in the keyboard and Cortana start to get data.
  • i'm wesley too!
  • Let's hope that while one team is working hard to add new features to Cortana, another team is working twice as hard to bring Cortana to the rest of the world.  
  • now if only i could get cortana to work or even hear my voice :/
  • It'd be nice if she could also help you solve problems with you computer, such as "why isn't my internet working?" She could tell you if maybe your wifi card is toast, or there's actually no internet access around, etc...
  • PowerBI and its natural language queries will really be a game changer for Cortana once she has her own instance of it scraping data sourced from Bing.
  • You know, this is great and all BUT it would be an awesome first step if they could get Cortana working in other countries! Especially large markets and other English speaking markets. If they could just do that first and then add the other awesomeness them I'd be happy. Until then it's useless to people like me (no, I won't change my region, that's a workaround and not a solution).
  • I believe they are. Cortana is still in Beta. The goal is to release it in other countries.
  • I'm not going to buy Win10 until Cortana speak my language!
  • Looks like if Cortana does migrate to IOS and Android the Windows 10 version will still have the edge. Running on multiple devices and the desktop power and functionality is the game changer. Theres been no mention of Cortana for Mac OS, so the IOS version will just be a little sibling, same as Android
  • Please bring such abilities to Cortana on windows phone 10
  • Exciting, but Microsoft should consider providing scientific and engineering assistance with Cortana. Me:"What is the conductivity of PVC?"
    Cortana:"That is a trick question. PVC does not conduct." How about that?!
  • Google is going to be in trouble. Their bread and butter is search, and I can't see people opening a browser, typing in google, and typing in a search when they can just say, "Hey, Cortana, what is the weather?" Or what ever they want. Google should have seen this coming, and built a Google search app in Windows.
  •   Cool. Good to see Cortana evolving.
  • Damn. Whole family same haircut.
  • This is cool but what is up with Cortana's grammar (the top line) once she figures out what to find?