Last year at its Build developer conference, Microsoft gave quite a bit of time on Day 1 to a conceptual demo about meetings of the future. In that demo, futuristic Cortana-enabled conferencing capabilities figured heavily as did Cortana integration with Teams, Outlook and Windows. This year at Build, a more business-first Cortana plus various bot and virtual assistant services, also look to be on the agenda. Microsoft has been honing its "conversation as a service"/bot pitch since at least 2016. A quick look at this year's published Build 2019 sessions shows that Cortana isn't totally out of the picture, despite its falling far behind Alexa and Google Assistant in terms of usage and mindshare.
Microsoft officials have spent the past year working on the public repositioning of Cortana from standalone digital assistant to more of an assistance aide. But it wasn't until this week that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella officially confirmed what we've already seen happening: Cortana is going to be an app, or skill, not a standalone assistant like Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple's Siri. Nadella spoke to a select group of journalists on the Microsoft campus earlier this week. Thanks to a transcript from one of those invited (which will cost you $10 if you aren't already a subscriber to the daily Stratechery newsletter), we know that Nadella was asked about Microsoft's aspirations in the consumer space. "One thing that I feel like at Microsoft we made a bunch of mistakes by just saying let's just enter every category, just because we're a software company," he told attendees.
Internet-connected intelligent gizmos had a big showing at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, and there is one common thread between many ofthem: Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant. Lenovo has a new speaker featuring the assistant. Volkswagen and Ford are building Alexa into their cars. Plus, there's a whole flotilla of other connected devices featuring Alexa, including a high-tech refrigerator from LG. That's not to say other virtual assistants aren't doing the same thing, but Amazon is the clear winner by volume at CES. So, what does that mean for the virtual assistant market, which includes competitors such as Microsoft's Cortana, the Google Assistant and Apple's Siri?
Google's voice assistant is about to be available on a lot more devices beyond the Google Home and Android phones. The AI - which rivals Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Microsoft's Cortana - will now be found on a new set of third-party speakers and appliances, the company announced today at IFA the consumer electronics show in Germany. These devices will either come with Google Assistant built in (meaning you can talk to it) or will be compatible with it (meaning you can use the assistant to control it). Google Assistant- which rivals Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Microsoft's Cortana - will now be found on a new set of third-party speakers and appliances, the company announced today at IFA the consumer electronics show in Germany. Google's voice assistant is about to be available on a lot more devices beyond the Google Home and Android phones.
In a previous article, I discussed the huge lead Amazon has over competitors in the IoT space, namely Google and Apple. Alexa has virtually all the market share when it comes to intelligent devices hooked into home automation, and there doesn't seem to be any indication that it is losing momentum or that its competitors are having any luck encroaching on its market position. But a lot of it has to do with the fact that Amazon's competition is lame. Sure, Google has an excellent voice assistant, but Google's smart speaker hardware has so far proven to be buggy, and it doesn't have the developer partnerships that Amazon has for Alexa. While Apple has solid speaker hardware that has been praised for its sound quality, the HomePod is hampered by Siri, which is just as stupid and borderline useless now as it was when it was launched six years ago.