Cortana product chief admits Microsoft was late to the speaker market

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Harman Kardon Invoke
Image Courtesy: PCMag.com

Digital assistants, in general, have changed a lot in the past
few years. They have gained a lot of new features which made
them capable of expanding themselves from smartphones to smart
speakers. Amazon Alexa powered Echo smart speakers are really
popular products in the market. Google Assistant powered smart
speakers are also popular. Realizing that there is an actual
market for smart speakers, Apple also launched their Home Pod
powered by Apple’s Siri of course. Microsoft, on the other
hand, didn’t make a smart speaker on their own and instead
asked Harmon Kardon to make a smart speaker powered by Cortana
and the Invoke was born. But it didn’t sell as they hoped it
would. So Microsoft lost the game in the smart speaker segment.

Microsoft has admitted that they were late to the smart speaker
market. In an interview with ZDNet, Javier Soltero who is
the Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Cortana
confessed that the smart speaker market grew into a form which
Microsoft didn’t anticipate. “This new market around
ambient devices in the home has been “shaped differently when
we expected.” Microsoft realized the opportunities of this
market “but didn’t jump quickly on.”

But all hope is not lost as Soltero also said that Microsoft
has new and better plans for Cortana. Smart speakers with
Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and even Siri are meant to do a
specific task. For example, turn on the lights or book a ride
or anything like that. These speakers and digital assistants
are already pretty good at this. Also, they are already popular
among the people. So there is no need for Microsoft to come up
with a Cortana powered smart speaker to take on the likes of
Google Home or Amazon Echo or even Apple Home Pod. Instead,
what Microsoft plans is to integrate Cortana into the operating
system or applications so that we will be able to do our tasks
faster and more efficiently.

People might always think of a digital assistant as an app or a
voice from a speaker but in reality what they want or what they
need is an actual help from the assistant. Simply put
“assistance from the assistant”. This is exactly what Microsoft
aims to do with Cortana. In the future of Windows 10 PCs,
Microsoft will be weaving Cortana into the entire operating
system.

This doesnt mean that Cortana will stop being the digital
assistant that it is. The final thing that Microsoft wants is
still to make Cortana a digital assistant too. Microsoft wants
Cortana to be consistent and logical. But what people really
need is the assistance that Cortana can offer and Microsoft
believes that concentrating on one of these will eventually
lead to the other.

This makes sense with the recently announced Cortana-Alexa
integration. Microsoft might have been late to the smart
speaker market but it doesn’t matter as long as Microsoft
follows this new roadmap for Cortana. For doing specific tasks,
the users can use Alexa. Microsoft is totally okay with
it. Also, users can also have Cortana in Amazon Echo speakers
if they still want to have a smart speaker with Cortana.

Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa already have a headstart so
Microsoft has to act fast. Cortana should expand to more
platforms and should have a better cross-platform service in
order to provide the best experience for the users.



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