Microsoft is said to be working on its own digital voice assistant to rival Apple’s Siri. Internally, the assistant is said to be referred to as “Cortana,” which is actually a character from the Halo franchise. Rumor has it that Cortana is actually going to be an overhaul of Microsoft’s TellMe service, while offering the same voice interaction features that Siri does. There’s also chatter about Microsoft integrating the assistant into all of its major products, such as the Xbox and Windows OS devices. The assistant is expected to be released as an integral part of Windows Phone 8.1 update, which is due early next year.

Microsoft is currently testing the assistant internally on Windows Phone devices that are running the GDR3 update, which is expected to be released in the near future. It is said that GDR3 update won’t bring Cortana to Windows Phone 8 powered devices. Moreover, it is said that Cortana will initially only be available to users in the U.S. once Windows Phone 8.1 rolls out next year. Users outside the U.S. would reportedly have to wait until late 2014 to get the virtual assistant. While Cortana might only be the codename at this point in time, a petition urging Microsoft to opt it as the final branding for the assistant is already gaining steam.

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