Shut up, Siri: Cortana now chats with iOS and Android

Hey, Cortana!
Hey, Cortana!

If you're eager to get access to Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant, on iOS, Android and Cyanogen phones, the wait is over. With the new cross-platform Cortana app, you'll be able to take Windows 10 alerts and reminders with you regardless of your phone's manufacturer.

The Cortana apps are specifically designed to provide an extension to the Windows 10 operating system for users who haven't bought into Windows 10 Mobile. With the new apps, you can set location-based reminders from your Windows PC that track your iPhone and tell you to pick up groceries when you pass the nearest Whole Foods.

You can also set Windows 10 to send your Galaxy S6 a missed call alert if someone attempted to ring you on your desktop while you were travelling on business. This feature also enables you to set up an auto-text that will alert callers that you are away from your desk and unable to take the call.

What else?

If you're new to the Windows ecosystem, you can look forward to accessing Cortana for its traditional features, such as vocally searching for static information, like the weather or a contact's phone number.

You can also use the digital assistant to automate tasks, like composing an email or creating a calendar entry. This year, Cortana even began scanning your email to automatically track flights and shipments, and offer exclusive discounts to users who land on participating retail websites.

Unfortunately, iOS and Android devices won't have the same functionality as Windows 10 Mobile-based devices. For example, Cortana won't be able to open and adjust your phone's settings or open other applications. You also won't be able to initiate Cortana simply by saying, "Hey Cortana," which is kind of a drag.

Why is Microsoft playing ball?

For Microsoft, 2015 has been the year of Windows 10. Unlike previous versions of Windows, which Microsoft primarily crafted for desktops, Windows 10 is supposed to be a ubiquitous operating system that lives on phones, tablets, PCs and even the Xbox One gaming console.

Unfortunately, Microsoft's footprint in the mobile operating system market has barely cracked 3%. New Windows 10 Mobile-based phones like the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL aren't likely to make a huge dent in overall market share, despite a few standout features.

However, by enabling iOS and Android users to access Cortana's features, Microsoft is expanding Windows 10's footprint, and by default, making it more ever-present in your life. If Cortana makes an impression on you while you're using an iPhone, a few cool Windows 10 Mobile-only features might be what it takes to get you to (maybe, possibly) consider a Windows device for your next handset.