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Microsoft’s take on Siri is a few steps closer to reality.

With Windows Phone 8.1, set to be announced next April at Build, Microsoft plans to finally introduce “Cortana,” its own personal assistant software, as the Verge reports. The software, which sounds like a cross between Siri and Google Now, gets its name from the Microsoft-owned Halo game series, where an artificial intelligence program named Cortana guides the player around.

By naming the software “Cortana,” Microsoft is giving a pretty good indication of we can expect from it. Just like the in-game Cortana can learn from and adapt to experiences, the Windows Phone Cortana will be able to learn from users’ behavior and adapt to future situations. (This is where all the comparisons to Google Now come in.)

But Cortana will go further. As Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hinted in a July memo, Cortana will be a whole new shell for Windows Phone itself, combining all of Microsoft’s services in a way that “will enable richer and deeper app experiences,” as Ballmer said.

Ballmer goes on:

Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it.

Put another way: Cortana, or whatever Microsoft calls it, will be core to Microsoft’s family of future devices. This means the software will extend beyond Windows Phone to Windows 8 and perhaps even the Xbox.

But that’s not all. Alongside Cortana, Microsoft is also set to unveil Windows Phone 8.1’s own notification center, which users can open, iOS-style, by sliding from the top of screen. Windows Phone 8.1 will also come with separate apps for Xbox Music and Xbox Video, as well as VPN support for enterprise users.

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