Microsoft’s phone business has largely dried up, and the company is moving forward with its cross-platform strategy of making sure its mobile apps and productivity solutions are well-supported on Android and iOS. While Microsoft may one day produce the long-rumored Surface Phone, in the meantime it’s focusing its efforts on making sure that mobile users are using Microsoft solutions no matter the platform.
One of the company’s more surprising marketing decisions involves offering a special version of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus in the Microsoft Store, preloaded with a range of Microsoft’s apps and dubbed the “Microsoft Edition.” Now, it appears to be taking another step in creating a customized Samsung experience with a targeted version of Cortana, as Neowin reports.
Microsoft’s digital personal assistant Cortana already runs well on Android, providing a number of important features expected from such software and integrating closely with Windows 10. In fact, running Cortana on an Android device makes for a solid experience when paired with a Windows 10 PC, sharing notifications and allowing reminders and other Cortana actions to carry across platforms.
The preview version of Cortana that has popped up in the Google Play store is called “Cortana for Samsung (Unreleased),” and any Android user can download and install it on any supported Android device. By all accounts, it functions the same as the standard Android version of Cortana, but it indicates that Microsoft could be planning a custom version of the app for the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8 Plus Microsoft Edition handsets.
Neowin further speculates that the custom version could provide optimized support for the dedicated hardware button that currently launches Samsung’s Bixby personal digital assistant. We won’t know until the version officially ships, of course, but adding in the ability to map the button to open Cortana instead of Bixby makes some sense.
These are definitely interesting times in Microsoft’s ongoing transition into a “mobile-first, cloud-first” productivity solutions company. Making sure that Cortana runs well on optimized Android devices is one way that Microsoft can maintain a presence in the mobile marketplace while preparing its long-term plans to get back into that space.