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Microsoft introduces Cortana, a new digital assistant for Windows Phones

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Meet Cortana, Microsoft's answer for Apple's Siri and Android's Google Now personal assistant service.

Microsoft unveiled Cortana publicly at the company's Build conference, which is being held in San Francisco this week. The assistant borrows its likeness from the character of the same name from the popular "Halo" series, and offers what Joe Belifore, manager of the Windows Phone program, called "the first, truly personal digital assistant."

Cortana will have similar features to Siri and Google Now, but Microsoft promises that Cortana will learn and grow the more its used. Many of Cortana's features were meant to reflect an actual personal assistant, with the ability to comb data approved by the user and add it to a Notebook. From there, Cortana can create daily itinerary, trigger an alert the next time the user calls a selected person and keep track of emails looking for specific information if the user wants. The new platform will operate off the Bing search engine, which helps Cortana retrieve a variety of information from the web.

Cortana will launch as part of the Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade, due out for existing phones within the next few months. Microsoft also plans to launch Cortana and Windows Phone 8.1 with new Windows Phone devices later this month.