Skip Links

Why isn't Microsoft's answer to Siri built into Windows 8?

Windows 8 is supposed to be Microsoft's majestic OS reset, but intelligent voice control is conspicuously absent.

By Mark Sullivan, PC World
November 08, 2012 10:40 AM ET

PC World - Windows 8 is supposed to be Microsoft's majestic OS reseta dramatic overhaul designed to usher the Windows platform into the age of mobility. And Windows 8 is also Microsoft's bid to achieve feature parity with iOS and Android, the other two OS powerhouses in the mobile universe.

But one key featureone hot, relevant, rock-star-caliber featureisA conspicuously absent from the Windows 8 repertoire: Intelligent, semantically aware voice control is nowhere to be found in the new OS.

ESSENTIALS: The Windows 8 FAQ

HELP: 11 (FREE!) Microsoft tools to make life easier

iPads and iPhones have a voice dictation button built right into their virtual keyboards.A And Google integrated its own set of deep voice control features into the Jelly Bean version of Android that was released earlier this year. So how come voice control isn't a forward-facing, marquee feature of Windows 8?

The short answer is that voice-control technology hasn't made it toA laptops or desktops in a meaningful way for either PCs or Macs, and Windows 8, at least for the short run, is much more of a computer OS than a tablet OS.

In Windows 8 (as in Windows 7 and Vista), speech recognition remains relegated to the role of an assistive technologyA designed to help disabled customers use their PCs. The Windows Voice Recognition (WVR) feature in Vista and Windows 7 allowed users to control a few minor OS behaviors with their own voices, and users could also dictate text, all with varying degrees of success.

Relative to Windows 7, Windows 8 offers incremental accessibilityA improvements, but also demonstrates that there's no real desire on Microsofts part to make voice control a major feature of the OS. Windows 8 can recognize your voice if you're using a microphone and can carry out some simple commands, but it doesn't offer anything approaching the voice-controlled "personal assistant" experience that we find in Apple's Siri.

A missed opportunity

Microsoft didnt always show so little interest in voice control. The software giant introduced Windows Speed Recognition (WSR) in Windows Vista, and at the time seemed very interested in putting all Windows users on speaking terms with their computers. The company also demonstrated a feature called Windows Speed Recognition Macros," which enabled the OS to perform certain repetitive tasks in response to a voice command. Unfortunately, the feature required users to write their own macros (i.e. "open file" etc.), and, as a result, WSR was mostly used by advanced users.

Microsoft bought the voice portal company TellMe in 2007, and appeared poised to use the voice recognition technology it received in the deal to put voice command into Windows. But it was not to be. The TellMe technology ended up being used mainly for voice commands in Windows Phone 7 and 8.

Siri's influence

For many of us, the iPhone 4Ss Siri feature was our first experience with a voice-recognition system that did more than just transcribe words and open windows. Indeed, Siri is something much deeper than a voice-recognition tool. It's a personal assistant that understands relatively nuanced wording, and performs many of the tasks we ask of our smartphones.

Originally published on www.pcworld.com. Click here to read the original story.

Our Commenting Policies
Latest News
rssRss Feed
View more Latest News