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Microsoft Says Cortana Is In Early Days, Plans To Outsmart Alexa

With both Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa on full display at CES 2018, a Microsoft executive has revealed that Cortana is still in its early stages, affirming the company is playing the long game as it seeks to outperform its rivals.

As told to GeekWire, Andrew Shuman, Corporate VP of Cortana Engineering states:

“It’s a long journey to making a real assistant that you can communicate with over a longer period of time to really be approachable and interesting and better than the alternative”

“That is our journey, to make some make some great experiences that shine through, and recognize that long haul”.

At CES 2018 Microsoft made several announcements which provided a stronger foundation for Cortana’s future. The announcements also reveal that the company has little attention of shying away for the smart assistant battle in the consumer market.

Mr Shuman affirms that the next step for Cortana is adding more complex voice control tasks – e.g. checking a user’s emails, automatically sending out calendar reminders:

“You start to see the promise there of really starting to be able to count on Cortana”

“And it’s just the infancy of that because it’s such a human need, and there are so many more ways we can make it easier and simpler”.

The news comes after reports revealed that Microsoft and Amazon may be in discussion to have their digital assistants communication with each other, leveraging each’s strengths.

Shuman states that both Amazon and Microsoft teams are using the integrations internally, with a view for the project to be ready in the first half of the year, or sometime after.

Interestingly, Shuman’s remarks come after some PC makers have decided to embed Amazon’s Alexa into Windows PCs. Shuman suggests that it may be tough for Alexa to replicate the same level of smooth integration as Cortana:

“I suspect Alexa will be very useful as an app that you can also talk to, but that’s a little different than being an ambient device on a PC”.

Microsoft announced many new smart home partnerships at CES 2018 – e.g. Ecobee, Honeywell Total Connect Comfort – with Cortana offering support to control switches, lights, outlets and more for the providers.

The company also debuted an upgraded Cortana software development kit, better-enabling developers to integrate the smart assistant into their products.

Whilst Amazon is ramping up integration of Alexa in third-party devices, its clear Microsoft is playing the long game.

Cortana is starting to emerge in third-party devices – e.g. Qualcomm’s new  smart speaker, adding to Harman Kardon’s Invoke speaker.

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