Cheetah Mobile’s Android launcher is the first to feature Microsoft’s Cortana

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Voice-activated assistants are all the rage. Apple has Siri, Android has Google Assistant, Samsung has Bixby, and now Microsoft’s Cortana has found a mobile partnerCheetah Mobile. You may recognize Cheetah as the company behind apps like Clean Master, but Cortana lives inside its CM Launcher for Android, which replaces the pre-installed app launcher on your phone. It’s the first time Cortana has been integrated into a mobile launcher app.

Adding Cortana gives CM Launcher voice-controlled features powered by Microsoft’s artificial intelligence and voice recognition system. For example, Cortana can be asked to make calls, read out news, create and manage events, translate text, and perform web searches. Cortana will also speak out to make sure you remember things to do, help out with recommendations, and more. It’s only the start of the relationship between Cheetah Mobile and Microsoft, with the promise of more features being added to CM Launcher in the future, some of which will be exclusive to the app. Beyond that, other Cheetah Mobile apps will benefit from Cortana’s help too, with Cheetah Keyboard mentioned as a possible candidate.

Although this is Cortana’s first appearance in an Android launcher app, both Microsoft and Cheetah Mobile have been working on artificial intelligence for some time. In April of 2016, Cheetah Mobile pledged a $50 million investment toward developing A.I. in its apps, and has since opened a research and development center in Silicon Valley, where the team works on A.I. and machine learning. It uses A.I. in everything from the News Republic app to its mobile advertising platform. It has also heavily invested in Chinese A.I. firm OrionStar, which provides voice technology for smart speakers, including one produced by Xiaomi.

Cortana on her own is available for Android, too. Microsoft’s stand-alone app features the assistant and provides a similar degree of functionality to Cheetah’s app, but without replacing the launcher on your phone. Microsoft’s strategic vision references artificial intelligence several times, highlighting its importance to the company, along with plans to put A.I. into its own apps and services, many of which were discussed at the dedicated A.I. Summit event in San Francisco this week.

The Cortana version of Cheetah Mobile’s CM Launcher is in open beta at the moment, with a final version due in January next year, but you can still try it out now. Download and install CM Launcher, then register to be a beta tester, and wait for the updated version to arrive on your phone. CM Launcher with Cortana is available in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia. Just be warned, CM Launcher really changes the look of your Android phone, and if you only use the free version, there are ads to support it.

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