Marcus Ash

Grab some coffee and watch Cortana-creator Marcus Ash's 40th birthday music video

Say what you will about Microsoft but that crew tends to have some unique personalities and a driving desire to have fun at work. Although the video contained in this article has no news value per se, it is well suited for a Saturday morning as it provides some hilarious entertainment.

Marcus Ash, the Group Program Manager for Cortana on Windows Phone, should be a familiar face to our audience. Overseeing Cortana, Ash is often the public face of Microsoft's digital personal assistant. He is also, ahem, quite the dancer as evidenced by this video celebrating his 40th birthday.

Microsoft wants to 'doubledown' on Cortana to make it a true personal assistant

Microsoft has posted a new video interview with Cortana team Group Program Manager Marcus Ash. The video is primarily Ash going over the design philosophy behind Cortana, things like Cortana completing certain tasks for you, letting you keep your attention on other, more important parts of your day.

The Cortana team answers your top questions about international expansion, Jen Taylor and more

Marcus Ash and Sandeep Paruchuri reply to your Cortana questions

A few days ago, we presented a rare opportunity to ask the Cortana team – represented by Marcus Ash and Sandeep Paruchuri – direct questions about Cortana's international rollout (Alpha and Beta programs), and the process therein.

After the big announcement in China about Cortana's expansion, the team managed to squeeze time in to pick some of your top questions and provide us the answers late last night. Therefore, without further ado, here is the Cortana team answering your best questions.

If you want insight into the differences between Alpha and Beta Cortana, or why Jen Taylor is not coming to the UK, then you must read on, you do not want to miss this!

Cortana hitting the UK in 'less than two weeks' with China soon thereafter

Microsoft's Cortana is currently limited to only those in the United States, but the team behind the personal assistant are working hard to quickly bring it to other regions. Top on that list is the UK and China, two regions that are officially getting Cortana soon. Cortana was originally teased as coming in July, but Microsoft later backtracked on that as the date was pushed back.

Now, Marcus Ash, Group Program Manager of Cortana, has responded to a user's question about the UK, noting "Barring an unforeseen issue, down to less than 2 weeks for the developer preview." This is certainly good news, as many in the UK can finally take advantage of a proper regionalized Cortana, including metric and Celsius data. As to the reason for the delay, Ash explains that he and his team have "…learned a lot about scaling. Now we need to finish" observing that it has been a "tough project".

Microsoft working on passive-voice activation for Cortana

While asking Cortana various questions on Windows Phone 8.1 is natural, the way in which one enables the personal voice assistant isn't quite as fluid. Users need to press down on the Search key or press the Live Tile and microphone before Cortana enables, and while it's not difficult there are better solutions available.

One of the solutions is passive-voice activation, which is something users of the Xbox One with Kinect should know. Passive-voice activation allows users to engage the AI or system simply by using their voice. Likewise, the Motorola Moto X with Android can also activated by explicitly stating 'Ok, Google Now.' The phone will then come awake, letting users make appointments, starting their music, or sending a text message without ever touching the phone.

Here's what Microsoft's Cortana was almost called before you changed everything

In hindsight, Microsoft naming its personal voice assistant after the famous AI character from the Halo game series seems like an obvious choice. The decision was not so easy partially due to an individual studio having initial objections and the usual corporate obstacles potentially thwarting its adoption.

But if not Cortana what would Microsoft have called their feature smart engine for Windows Phone?

This is how Cortana got started and why more countries will get Microsoft's assistant soon

Cortana is certainly the most headline worthy new feature of Windows Phone 8.1, even though the OS update has much more than a personal assistant going for it. With comparisons to Siri and Google Now, the Halo-inspired voice helper garners some needed headlines for Microsoft as they continue their entrenched battle in mobile.

Recently, Marcus Ash, who is the group program manager for Cortana on Windows Phone, was seen on camera explaining the priorities for Cortana, including entertaining the idea of putting it on other operating systems like Android or iOS. That controversial position was later clarified in a follow-up comment on our site, alleviating some concerns of Windows Phone adherents.

Today, in a second video, Ash explains the origins of Cortana's development, and how the team is "shocked by the international reaction."

Microsoft: Dead serious about giving Windows Phone customers best personal assistant on any smartphone

Yesterday the Windows Phone community went into a tizzy over the possibility of Cortana making her way to iOS or Android in the future. We then later saw a video with the full response to the question of whether or not Cortana should stay on Windows Phone. The comments come from Marcus Ash, who is the group program manager for Cortana on Windows Phone.

Ash has now taken to Twitter where he left a Tweetstorm giving even more contest to his remarks. Before that Tweetstorm, he left a really big comment on the post from yesterday. A comment worth highlighting and bringing to the forefront of the communities attention. Comment after the break.