Soon, you'll be able to speak to your phone to tell it to "Send my financial presentation deck to Sarah," thanks to a personal Office assistant feature.
Cortana, the digital assistant that will ship with Windows 10, may land in Office in the future to serve as your work assistant. The unannounced feature, now known as Office Now, is said to be a rebrand of the earlier rumored Work Assistant.
How it works
Like Cortana, Office Now is a virtual assistant. However, Office Now will live within Office and can respond to spoken or typed queries, according to leaked screenshots posted by ZDNet. Office Now uses natural language recognition, and users can command it to send or share their files with named colleagues using voice. Other commands include find, open, view, edit, load and email.
According to the screenshots, Office Now can search using metadata for file names, file locations, file types and last access dates. Additionally, Office Now can help with scheduling meetings, planning travel and joining conference calls. It will show events that require travel and display information in a UI featuring Cards, similar to Google Now and Delve.
Information from Twitter user @h0x0d suggests that Office Now will be a cross-platform solution, with plans to arrive on Windows, iOS and Android. This makes sense as Microsoft is leveraging Office as a service. Also, Microsoft has stated that it intends to port Cortana to rival platforms, so making Office Now broadly available to other mobile Office users would fall in line with that strategy.
It's possible that Office Now is leveraging the power of Cortana. Microsoft stated that Cortana can be used to drive business intelligence at Ignite 2015, its inaugural enterprise client summit.
"Cortana has an extensibility framework so other third-party providers can connect to Cortana to let me use natural voice commands to extract business information from their systems," Stella Chernyak of the Windows team told TechRadar at Ignite. "It's one thing to use Cortana personally and another when you can join Azure Active Directory to get access and it's so relevant to you. I'm meeting a customer; I can ask Cortana 'what is their profile or what did we talk about last time'."
Office Now may be the first of multiple assistant apps for Microsoft. A job posting for the Bing engineering team uncovered by ZDNet reveals that Microsoft is looking for a scientist interested in working on "Personal Assistants" – note the plural.
"Are you interested in joining the team that has powered natural language understanding for Cortana and Bing and is now at the forefront of Personal Assistants, Productivity, Enterprise and Entertainment products for Microsoft," the posting reads.
In the past, Bill Gates had said that he is involved with work on personal assistant technologies as part of his return to Microsoft.
- Read our review of Office 2016