Microsoft's Cortana heading to Xbox One, will take on Apple's Siri in the living room
Apple's Siri voice controls debuted on the new Apple TV last fall, and Microsoft's competing Cortana will follow suit, debuting in the living room on Xbox One consoles starting this summer.
Until now, voice control on the Xbox One gaming system has been rigid, with specific commands required to operate. That's set to change with the debut of Cortana, which will allow a more natural, conversational style with the system.
Apple, of course, has offered its own conversational media controls since last year with the fourth-generation Apple TV and Siri Remote. Like the Xbox One, the latest Apple TV allows users to download apps and games, and to play those titles with full-fledged gaming controllers.
One key difference between the Apple TV and more traditional consoles like the Xbox One is price — Â while Apple's set-top box starts at $149, the Xbox One is priced at $299.
In a post to its official Xbox blog, Microsoft announced on Monday that the gaming machine and media player will add Cortana support in a preview update debuting in the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Germany and Spain starting this week. The update is scheduled to officially launch for all Xbox One users this summer.
Microsoft says users can expect the "familiar Cortana experience" already established on Windows 10 and Windows Phone devices, invoked with the words "Hey Cortana." Voice controls with Cortana on Xbox One will work with both headsets and Kinect.
"You'll be able to use Cortana to find great new games, see what your friends are up to, start a party, accomplish common tasks, turn on your Xbox One if you're using Kinect, and more," Microsoft said. "We'll continue to build Cortana features over time and our vision is to use Cortana to help elevate your experience as your personal digital assistant for gaming."
In a demonstration, Microsoft showed Cortana doing more than just gaming-related functions — Â one example had the assistant delivering the scores from recent Seattle Mariners baseball games.
Ironically, Xbox is the last major platform from Microsoft to support Cortana, despite the fact that the voice-driven service is named after a character from the company's blockbuster Halo gaming franchise, which is exclusive to Xbox.
With the optional Kinect accessory, the Xbox One is always listening, meaning Cortana support is available hands-free. In contrast, the Apple TV requires users to press the Siri button on its remote to begin listening for voice commands.
Apple is rumored to be working on an upgraded Apple TV that could have its own microphone and speaker, allowing for always-listening capabilities without the need to have the Siri Remote in hand. Such additions would allow Apple to compete not only with the likes of Cortana on Xbox One, but also dedicated in-home personal assistants like Amazon Echo, or Google's forthcoming Home hardware.