cortanaIf Cortana sounds like a familiar name to you that must mean you play or have played Microsoft’s flagship console game Halo. The artificial intelligence character in the hit game franchise is also the name that Microsoft has bestowed upon their new digital assistant, showing up with the release of Windows 8.1.

With new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella now controlling the ship, it was clear at their Build conference in San Francisco Wednesday morning that they were done sitting stagnant while Apple and Google dominated the mobile space.

While the idea behind Cortana has been rumored for several months, many had no idea what the name would be and how in-depth Microsoft’s digital assistant would be. It’s a far cry form the paper clip man that Microsoft used to help people through Office tasks just a few years ago.

Although its using Bing as the back bone Microsoft’s Cortana is a lot smarter than even Siri in some regards. First off, Cortana is available to third party developers and can be called upon to assist users in apps outside of the Windows 8.1 apps. This is something that Siri can’t, and isn’t allowed to do.

Cortana also learns about the user in a much more fluid way. During the presentation at the Build conference, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore asked Cortana to remind remind him to ask his sister about her new puppy the next time she called. Cortana knew who Belfiore’s sister was and when she called a reminder popped up about his sisters puppy. Again this is something that Siri can not do and a life saver in the CRM world. Imagine having little notes about clients and vendors for when they call that could help break the ice and seal deals.

Cortana is also able to recognize things in emails and messages. For example if you had a bunch of emails in regards to a business trip Cortana can prompt you with hotel information, flight information, car rentals, reminders and even the local weather. Techfaster has also learned that when integrated with Microsoft’s mapping and navigation features Cortana, will be able to tell you the weather along the route. Something that neither Apple nor Google’s mapping products do well.

You can look forward to Cortana in Windows 8.1 devices, that is if you’re brave enough to switch.