Cortana is currently available as part of the Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview in the US in beta mode. Microsoft also has plans to release it to China and UK in the second half of 2014, while it might reach other countries by 2015.
"We want to scale Cortana internationally and across devices. The Android/iOS question is interesting. We're asking, would Cortana be as effective if she didn't have access to the details on your phone? We're still trying to get Cortana adopted on Windows Phone and figure out what it wants to become there. But we're actively talking about this.
I think it's natural to think that an assistant that only runs on one device ... the idea that she will be very pervasive is important to us." said Ash to Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan.
Although it will be interesting to see whether Android and iOS users, who already have Google Now and Siri, will actually shift to Cortana, and in what form the Microsoft virtual assistant could appear on those platforms.
Ash also said that for now Microsoft didn't have plans to monetise the Cortana virtual assistant with ads, saying it was far too early in the product's life, "We think we're in the stage right now where we have to build trust with the users. We'll explore monetization eventually, but Cortana is so nascent. It's too early. We know there are commercial opportunities, but in this first year we need to establish what Cortana is and how people use it."
Speaking about how Cortana would affect traditional smartphone search, Ash said the integration of the search box and the virtual assistant is the goal, "The search box is what people know. That's why we're trying to bring [it and Cortana] together. The declarative intent of traditional search saves us so much effort - if you tell us what your interest are via search, Cortana gets so much better. We think Cortana makes you more likely to search, it doesn't replace search."