Cortana may not have seen the same sort of success as digital assistants like Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant, but Microsoft now sees those platforms as an opportunity for success, not competitors. At a media event reported by Business Insider (via OnMSFT), Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that the company wants to position Cortana as a skill for Alexa and Google Assistant, opening up valuable integrations for Office 365 subscribers.
In his remarks, Nadella dismissed the idea of competing with Alexa directly. Rather, he cited Cortana's potential as a valuable skill:
And while Microsoft and Google aren't exactly known for working together, Nadella was open to making Cortana available through Google Assistant as well:
Speaking further, Nadella acknowledged that Microsoft missed the boat on penetrating the smart speaker market. If it were to enter with its own speaker now, Nadella explained, it would have to come up with something truly unique:
Microsoft's strategy with Cortana is similar to its strategy on mobile in recent years. Rather than competing directly with Apple and Google in the smartphone space, Microsoft has shifted to providing its services as apps across its former competitors. Indeed, Microsoft is now looking to reposition Cortana even in its own products as the AI backbone across its services.
While Microsoft does have at least one Cortana-powered smart speaker on the market, the Harman Kardon Invoke, it never managed to take off. On the other side, Amazon and Google have managed to stake a claim on a significant portion of the market with their ecosystems of smart speakers and displays. Cortana is also generally more limited in its skillset than Alexa and Google Assistant – though it is tightly integrated with Microsoft's own services.
Microsoft has already started working hand-in-hand with Amazon, bringing Cortana and Alexa closer together and allowing Echo devices to interact with Xbox One consoles. Whether Google and Microsoft can work out a similar partnership remains to be seen.
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